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Vettel relies on Felix and Heidi

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    Sebastian Vettel and his custom helmet get ready to hit the track at Albert Park.

Sebastian Vettel has fond nicknames for helmet and car.

Felix Baumgartner and Hungry Heidi were the surprise stars during the early running at Albert Park yesterday.

How's that? Well, triple world champion Sebastian Vettel is wearing a helmet for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend that is a carbon copy of the crazy Red Bull skydiver's safety gear. And his car is called Hungry Heidi.

In early practice, it was Vettel - with the Baumgartner helmet and Heidi beneath him - who shaded the Ferrari pair of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso through the early laps at Albert Park.

The top five drivers all lapped closely in the 1 minute 27 second bracket to confirm the even field predicted after pre-season testing in Europe.

Australia's Mark Webber was right in the mix, driving Red Bull RB9 identical to Vettel's but without a crazy nickname.

"It's not really surprising," said Remi Taffin, the head of track support for Renault Support, which supplied the engines in five of the 10 fastest cars.

"It's no big deal. They're just setting up things." But Vettel's speed matched his Gen-Y superstar status, and his reputation as a man who pushes every angle.

Just as multiple world champion Valentino Rossi changes helmets almost as often as he changes gears, Vettel has created a pattern where he has different paint jobs on his helmets for most races. Once he wins with a helmet, it is retired.

On the car front, Vettel likes to nickname his cars - and the job is usually done at a rowdy pre-season dinner with his mates.

So Hungry Heidi follows Abbey, which carried him to last year's world title.

Before he uncorked Abbey, he drove cars called Kate, Kate's Dirty Sister, Luscious Liz, Randy Mandy and Kinky Kylie.

 

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