Four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel put in a stunning performance to eclipse 19 fellow stars of motor sports and win the Race Of Champions (ROC) for the first time on a thrilling afternoon of action at London’s former Olympic Stadium.
Following Team England’s triumph in the ROC Nations Cup, all cooperation went out of the window the following day as the individual Race Of Champions pitted many of motor sports’ biggest names in identical cars on a brand new Olympic cycling-style pursuit track.
On a bitterly cold but sunny day at the iconic London venue, the best-of-three Grand Finals boiled down to a battle between two of the world’s biggest motor sport legends. But in the end, Vettel saw off nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen to become Champion of Champions for the first time.
Vettel had never been in the Race Of Champions Grand Finals before, despite his six ROC Nations Cup wins in partnership with Michael Schumacher for Team Germany. Kristensen, by contrast, has been in the Grand Final no less than four times without yet coming out on top.
“Of course I’m very happy and honored to win – but that took a while! 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,” Vettel said.
“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. But I’ve tried to win this so many times, today was more like a surprise. We all know this format is very difficult because no one gets much time in the cars so you need to find your rhythm quickly. Today I had the feeling I found it straightaway. It was very cold but it was a great atmosphere so thank you very much to everyone for coming to watch,” he added.
Kristensen for his part, said: “Seb [Vettel] is a deserved winner – he drove brilliantly and he showed that skill in the final. I gave my all and it was close but he’s been really on it here. Obviously I retired last year but it was great to come back and remind myself how it was to compete – and to stay on the track all the way to the final. ROC is all about fun and it was good to see so many people watching in the cold conditions. Apart from Seb, the main achievement today was by the people who have been here supporting this great event.”