Sebastian Vettel put his weekend away from the Formula One circuit to good use by winning the Race of Champions (ROC) for the first time. The Ferrari star saw off 19 of the world’s best drivers from various motorsport disciplines to emerge triumphant at London’s Olympic Stadium.
The ROC sees drivers, and guest passengers, in head-to-head pursuit races in identical cars. The winning driver from each best-of-three rounds progresses, with the final two facing off for the silverware. To add another dose of drama, the drivers must squeeze into the cockpit of a variety of cars including a Mercedes-AMG GT S, KTM X-Bow and a Radical SR3 RSX.
“We’re all very exciting this weekend,” said Jenson Button. “It’s not that serious, we all have to realize it’s a lot of fun out there.”
The annual competition, pits champions from the worlds of F1, NASCAR, MotoGP, World Rallycross, and more motorsport series, against each other in identical machinery and the 2015 final saw Vettel defeat nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen.
“Of course I’m very happy and honoured to win – but that took a while!” said the German, who has won the ROC Nations Cups six times previously with Michael Schumacher, but never the individual event.
“A lot of world class racing drivers have won this trophy. I’ve tried to win this many times and failed many times but finally I’ve succeeded. What the Race of Champions gives us is a lot of joy. When we were kids starting to race, we did it for pure joy and this sort of event is a good reminder of that. When you close the visor, ultimately victory is still what drives you.”
Other F1 names included Lotus’s Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren’s Jenson Button, and Williams’ Susie Wolff, making her last competitive motorsport appearance before retirement.
Vettel dedicated his victory in the Race of Champions event at London’s Olympic Stadium to Michael Schumacher.
“It is a shame that he cannot be here with us now – it’s difficult for us all. The bottom line is that he is a good friend, and a friend that we are missing here now. We know that he (Michael) keeps fighting, we know that he’s not well, so we wish him all the best,” the Ferrari driver added.