At the Miami Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel regretted that Formula 1 had not chosen an emblematic circuit like Road America for its second race in the United States. Bobby Rahal, former driver turned team boss in IndyCar, had invited the Aston Martin F1 driver to a test.
His son Graham, who drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, encouraged the German to accept the offer. But after the announcement of Vettel’s retirement, the American returned to the charge, assuring that it was possible for him to test when he wanted a Dallara IR18 with Honda engine and that the championship would please him.
“It’s open whenever he wants to try and maybe he wants to come and race, I’m sure we can find a way to do that” Rahal said. “As [Romain] Grosjean, I think Seb would find in IndyCar a much more relaxed environment, but also more competitive, for sure.
“And for a guy like him, who is a competitor, I’m sure finishing tenth and at the back of the field is not fun, especially after winning world championships, and all the other things he’s accomplished. .”
Graham Rahal reveals in passing that his father’s team could enter a fourth single-seater in the future, while it is already running Christian Lundgaard and Jack Harvey, in addition to the main interested party.
“So if he wants to test, I’m sure there’s a place, a home for him. In many ways we’re preparing to look at a fourth car in the future. So I’m not saying that he wants to do it full time, but if he wants to come and test he can.”
Destinies crossed in their youth
Rahal reveals he has a connection to Vettel, as the pair crossed paths early in their career when Rahal was looking to come to Europe: “We never met, but our paths crossed.”
At the time, Red Bull was looking for an American driver and Colin Fleming was a contract driver in Formula Renault 3.5. In 2006, Fleming was unceremoniously removed from the program for a results problem, and his steering wheel was recovered by a certain Sebastian Vettel.
The German imposed himself immediately, which enabled him to convince Helmut Marko and Red Bull to take him to F1. Rahal revealed he was in talks to get a chance for a weekend in Fleming’s place, but the schedules didn’t go well.
During this period, he had carried out several tests in GP2 and was driving in Formula Atlantic, and he could not free himself from his constraints to drive in FR3.5. The rest is Rahal who explains it and recalls what happened afterwards.
“The guy who ended up taking that spot, and who won that weekend, was Vettel. So that’s interesting. And that’s kind of what skyrocketed him to the BMW contract in Indianapolis. , and all the rest.”
Rahal has ‘always admired’ Vettel
We can however think that Graham Rahal would not have had the career of Vettel, even if he had replaced Fleming that weekend. Indeed, Vettel had stood out with three wins from three races, and Rahal admits he has always been impressed with what the four-time F1 world champion has done since.
“The guy has incredible talent and I’ve always admired what he’s been able to do. But I also admire the class and character with which he did it, in a world that doesn’t show up often. . It’s very political there. And I think he always managed to overcome that with his humor and all that.”
Rahal also praises Vettel’s very open and authentic personality: “Everyone thinks of [Daniel] Ricciardo, but I think Vettel was the first to do it. And I’ve always admired that. I think it’s good to be yourself and show off, and that’s what he did, so I’d definitely like to give him a chance [en IndyCar].”
The American therefore continues to believe that IndyCar could represent a perfect end-of-career choice for the purist that is Vettel: “I also think he would appreciate the purity of IndyCar racing.”
“It’s not very technical, it’s brutal, it’s powerful, you have to get the machine moving. And I think he would probably enjoy that. It would probably take him back to his early racing days. So I think that would probably be refreshing.”
“I remember the great Justin Wilson once telling me that if you have a chance in Formula 1 you have to try, but you’re not necessarily going to like it. In Vettel’s position, I imagine, he could just enjoying coming to try this.”