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Can Infiniti beat BMW’s M5? Vettel talks

Earlier this year, we discovered that Infiniti’s BMW M5-baiting Q50 ‘Eau Rouge’ concept - named so after the famous sphincter-puckering corner at Spa - will pack a whopping 560bhp.

It’ll come courtesy of the Nissan GT-R’s monster twin-turbo V6, and also courtesy of Sebastian Vettel.

Yes folks, the four-time Formula One world champion has a second job with Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti. Red Bull and the Japanese carmaker announced a partnership a few years back, and Vettel has been appointed the ‘Director of Performance’. One of his jobs the as the Boss of Fast then, is to ensure the Q50 ‘Eau Rouge’ concept is a hoot to drive.

Sebastian Vettel and his second job

“To be very honest the first time I drove the Q50 Eau Rouge is wasn’t quite ready,” he tells TG, “so we had the power we were asking for, but things didn’t work, it wasn’t set up very well. I had to be patient, and try again a couple of weeks later. It’s very impressive if you compare it to the normal Q50, to have that extra power. That’s what I was asking for mostly.”

Naturally, he couldn’t properly debrief TG on how the 560bhp, GT-R engined Q50 handles, but he gave us some clues. “We went to Millbrook to test it out. The performance was good in a straight line… but in the corners it felt like a normal Q50. Then again, it’s a first step. We tried it out here, at Spa, and it was a lot better then, but there’s still work to do. It’s completely new territory so we have to be patient.”

Can it ever square up to Infiniti’s long-time rival, BMW, and it’s mighty M5? He laughs, but not dismissively. “Well, yes, but obviously the BMW is a massive competitor. M Division have been exploring their limits for a long time, and in the beginning we’re not going to be where we want to be. In terms of power and weight, I’m happy, it’s very close, but it’s a long process.”

A process he’s had to acquire some patience for. “When you work in Formula One everything happens very quickly,” he tells us. “If for example I had a problem in first practice, at the very latest it has to be solved in second practice, unless it’s something fundamental. The fact we haven’t got enough power in our car this year… [laughs] I’d love to be able to change that in one session.”

Ah yes, power. It can’t have escaped your attention that Vettel’s Renault-engined RB10 has had its fair share of problems this year. While team-mate Ricciardo has romped ahead to the delight of all, including this past weekend as he made the most of Mercedes’ misfortune. We imagine that can get quite… frustrating.

“How do I manage the frustration?” He laughs. “I don’t have much choice. It’s obviously painful when the car lets you down, but we are a team, so I don’t see it that way. I see it in the way that we make mistakes together, we need to work on them together and learn the lessons.”

Surely though, engine unreliability must rob him of his confidence while he’s out doing 200mph? “Not really,” he says very matter-of-factly. “When you’re out there you don’t really think the car will fail any second. We knew it would be a tricky year, and I think Renault understand now that we are behind, but we’re working very hard to get back to where we belong.”

Though he’s very realistic about where he might ‘belong’ this year. “You constantly have to excuse yourself for something you shouldn’t excuse for, and there’s a lot of questions so you need to give some answers. It hasn’t been a smooth year for us, but that’s part of the game.

“In the end, there’s no problem with finishing fifth or sixth this year, knowing you’ve done everything you could have. But the target is to always win, so ultimately I wouldn’t be happy with fifth. I always believe there’s a chance to win, otherwise it’s quite sad, thinking that you’re only going to come away from a race with a few points.”

With Ricciardo proving beyond doubt that winning is indeed possible, Vettel’s got a tough fight on his hands for the final phase of this season. Watch this space…

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