Sebastian Vettel has insisted that it is far too early to begin drawing comparisons between himself and seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher, despite claims that the older German is a fading force.
Dubbed 'Baby Schumi' even before he had made his F1 debut, Vettel - who prizes a picture of himself with Schumacher while he was just a youngster racing karts - has been the dominant force of 2010, claiming three pole positions in four races, and winning the round where he failed to go fastest in qualifying. Indeed, he could have won rounds one and two had it not been for mechanical problems, but his victory in Malaysia last time out means that he sits just two points off the championship lead heading into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
Schumacher, meanwhile, has struggled on his return with Mercedes and, despite claiming that he knows where he and the team need to improve, the 41-year old languishes tenth in the standings, fully 30 points off leader Felipe Massa. The lack of results - his best of sixth came in race one in Bahrain - has prompted some observers to claim that Schumacher should not have returned after a three-year 'retirement', but Fernando Alonso, amongst others, insists that he should not be discounted as a title contender.
Despite the disparity in their form, however, Vettel maintains that trying to compare him to the seven-time champion is pointless.
"I know that I'm German, I know that I come from Germany, but it would be quite ridiculous to compare myself – at the stage that I am now – with someone like Michael," he insisted, "He's a legend, he's one of the best the sport has ever seen. There's obviously a long way to go.
"I think, as everyone else, I try to do the best for myself and we are all individuals, that's the only thing I can say really. I don't consider myself as a superstar. It's more the famous politicians and pop stars. I see myself as a racing driver, something that I have been dreaming of since I was young. It's nice to be here, part of F1, and obviously it's even much nicer when you sit here. I really enjoy what I'm doing and I'm proud to be next to guys like Fernando, Mark, whosoever. But, for sure, in Germany, the greatness of Michael is untouched."
Vettel is still aware of his relative inexperience in F1 terms, but is also seasoned enough to realise that, even though he is being marked out as the man to beat in 2010, there is still a long way to go before the title will be handed out.
"I'm a greenhorn, you know? I've only been here for three, or three-and-a-half years, it's not a long time," the 22-year old commented, "I'm obviously not the oldest on the grid and, at the moment, as I said, I'm enjoying what I'm doing a lot. I don't know where we will be in five, ten years. You never know, F1 changes quickly, as does life."
That analogy could apply equally to the championship picture as it does to life and careers in general, and Vettel is keen to stress that the title fight is still wide open, with as many as four teams in contention for race wins.