It’s 7.30 in the morning and an online news conference organised with Sebastian Vettel is a few minutes old when it dawns on the Ferrari driver that there are a large number of British journalists on the call.
“I just realised it’s an hour behind in the UK, so it’s even earlier there,” he says with a smile. “Sorry about that.”
The four-time world champion is in his home in Switzerland, wood beams criss-crossing a white wall behind. He’s wearing his team shirt; he doesn’t reveal whether he still has his pyjama trousers on out of shot. But in the circumstances it seems unlikely.
“I like to start early so I have lots of time left in the day,” he says. “I’m planning on going for a little bike ride later.”
This is the ‘new normal’ in Formula 1, now the start of the season has been laid waste by the coronavirus. No-one can race, and factories are on shutdown. The drivers are busying themselves staying fit and sharp, and the sport’s bosses are trying to navigate a way through the crisis, but the oxygen of exposure remains as valuable now as ever.
Some of Vettel’s peers are satisfying their racing bug by taking the competition online – his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc won a ‘Virtual Grand Prix’ a couple of weeks ago at his first attempt, and there is another one this weekend, on the date of what would have been the Chinese race.
Vettel, though, is a 32-year-old father of three pre-school kids, so he has plenty on his hands already. He is known for his old-style approach – he famously eschews social media – and has not been involved. At least not so far.
“The truth is I didn’t have a simulator until a couple of days ago,” he says, “so I have not been tempted because I didn’t have the chance.
“I have heard a lot of things about it. So I thought I would get one and try. Generally, I am not going to foresee a career in sim racing. It is more something to try for fun. I have been playing some games but since I had kids it is not the first thing on my list to do.
“I have read some of the news and I have also read Charles did well on his debut, but I still consider it a bit more of a fun thing. I am aware some people take it very seriously and spend a lot of time there but I also enjoy doing a lot of things.”