In his first media appearance as a double Formula One World Champion, Sebastian Vettel expressed great delight, a little bewilderment and profound thanks to his team.
The fifteen points Sebastian Vettel scored at Suzuka today were 14 more than he needed to confirm his status as the youngest double-world champion in Formula One history.
With four races of the season remaining, Vettel got over the winning line with some comfort. In Abu Dhabi 11 months ago his ultimate victory seemed unlikely, today it was more of a coronation and Seb’s very obvious delight was tinged with relief rather than surprise.
“To win the championship here is pretty special and a bit funny at the same time, because it’s as confusing as the first one. All of a sudden you’re supposed to… [Seb clicks his fingers]… yep, that’s the moment, now enjoy. I think it will surely take a little bit of time.”
“It does take some time to understand and I think those quiet moments that I will have, at some point, either tonight, tomorrow or the next week or weeks, by myself, but also with people who are very close to me, I will take that time and let things sink in a little bit.”
Vettel’s record in the first 15 races of this season is impressive: he has nine victories, four second places and third today. Fourth at his home race in Germany is the only time this year he’s not been drenched in champagne at the end of a grand prix. Added to that he’s taken 12 pole positions and has a reasonable chance of beating Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of 14 in a season.
Perhaps surprisingly, Vettel argues that his car this year isn’t as superior as the RB6 was in 2010. He puts the better record of the RB7 down to human, rather than mechanical development.
‘The season has been fantastic. I think with a less dominant car than last year we were able to do a very, very good job. We are very strong as a team. Every time it mattered, we made very few mistakes, especially at those times when it was critical. We were there, we were performing. I think everyone working for Red Bull Racing can be very proud today. Renault has done a fantastic job; very often they get forgotten. We have had no problems with the engine at all. They were sending a lot of support all the time, pushing very hard in Viry, back in France.
“I think it’s very likely people will draw the wrong conclusion, to say we had a very easy run this year. We had a very, very good car, no doubt, but we had an even stronger team. I think the car this year was less dominant than the car last year. Last year we had so many races where you might say we were unlucky but we made stupid mistakes as well. We did things that cost us a lot of time and cost us a lot of points.
“In the end, I think the secret – if there was one this year – is that we could trust, one hundred per cent, the guy next to us and that goes for the whole team. I think what we have achieved so far in Red Bull Racing is just incredible and we obviously hope to enjoy the rest of the year. The target for the next race will be exactly the same as this race and the last race.”
While this is Seb’s second world championship it’s also his third year fighting for the title, relinquishing his chance in 2009 at the penultimate race in Brazil. When asked to comment on the difference between winning at the final chequered flag in 2010, and having a comparative stroll to victory this year, he also included the other side of the coin and the feeling when losing a championship.
“I wouldn’t say last year was a surprise. That’s what we were fighting for and even if the odds weren’t looking too good, we kept believing. Even the year before I remember very, very well the moment in Brazil, probably as well as Jenson [Button, the 2009 World Champion] does. It’s not a nice feeling, knowing that you lose the title, but it’s always these important moments that you remember: the good and in particular the bad because you are able to learn so much from the times that you are being beaten.
“The funny thing this year is that next week there is the next race, so that’s a bit difficult to understand. I think all year we tried very, very hard to keep our feet on the ground and always tried to focus on the next step, on the next race. It’s a bit different this year, and it makes it even more special in a way.”
“I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season. We have a great car, a great team, and obviously we use everything we have to make the next step and perform well at the next race.”
Today’s third place is Vettel's second-worst result of the season – but it will probably be the most memorable.