It is not a foregone conclusion for a 4-time F1 champion to wish to go karting the day after an F1 Grand Prix (to be precise, the Sochi 2019 event), especially if the result is not good. However, Sebastian Vettel is not just any champion and, on more than one occasion, he really has shown he loves karts and also uses it as a outlet and … as a time for reflection. This is why those who know him were not surprised when, around 10 am on a warm Monday in late September, Vettel arrived at the South Garda Karting in Lonato, after taking a flight from Sochi the night before, landing in Bologna, to then take a car and drive to Desenzano, where he arrived at 2 am. All this, as always for him, without the support of helpers, assistants, mental trainers or others, but simply … alone! Hence, three years after the last time, TKART has again had the honour of exclusively experiencing from close up, thanks to Tony Kart, Sebastian Vettel’s day racing a kart.
The surprise comes even before greeting the German driver, because in the tent of the Tony Kart Racing Team, there are two Racer 401 R chassis with the number 5 ready for Vettel,: the first in OK configuration (single-speed) with the Vortex DST engine; the second in KZ configuration (shifter) with Vortex RSZ engine. A new situation for him, since he has never driven a kart with gears. The premise for a day worth telling is certainly not lacking.
While the Vortex DST is warming up in the parc fermé, Sebastian starts to get ready, paying particular attention to his rib-knitted bodice. With the kart on the ground, Sebastian tests the driving position of both karts, even if the impression is that he is not convinced to get in the KZ as well. The Tony Kart Racing Team mechanics Lorenzo Abò and Paolo “Paolino” Gobbini make little adjustments to the position of the pedals and Vettel adjusts the seat, applying foam to the sides to improve driving comfort. Thus, finally, Sebastian brings his Tony Kart Racer 401 R powered by the Vortex DST onto the track: for him, a first 20-minute stint with used tyres to regain his feeling with the kart and the Lonato track.
We take the opportunity to analyse Vettel’s driving together with the world champion and official Tony Kart driver Marco Ardigò: “When braking at the mechanics hairpin, but generally at every major braking point, Sebastian arrives too long, which is certainly because he brakes late, accustomed as he is to the superior braking power of Formula 1″. The OK kart is not easy to drive, because it has a lot of power and it is important for the vehicle to be in the right position when the engine delivers all its power. The German champion returns to the parc fermé and gives his first impressions of the kart’s behaviour to the mechanics. The consequence is that a decision is taken to change the setup, tightening the front track to decrease the grip when entering bends. This should allow the chassis to slide more, without badly affecting the rear.
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