Sebastian Vettel has colourfully admitted that he should be leading the Formula One world championship heading into this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, but insists that the leading group of drivers and teams are so well-matched that things can change very quickly.
The German, who concedes that he was 'caught napping' with potential victory on the cards in Hungary ahead of F1's summer break, lies third in the standings, ten points off Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber, with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton sandwiched between them. However, just 20 points - slightly more than is awarded for second place in a grand prix - separate the top five following Ferrari's recent resurgence, and Vettel is confident that he can be a contender to the end of the year.
"Of course. I think Virgin, and teams like that, are obviously focusing on next year, but the teams that still have a fair chance – Ferrari and McLaren – I think have to, and will, push until the end, same as us," he noted, "They are in a very similar position.
"We are all very tight on points and, again, the points system this year is different so, even though it might look a big gap of ten, 20, 30 points, it's literally nothing. Fernando, for instance, had a couple of good races in the last two or three races and, from nowhere, when people said he's no longer in this championship, he's back. It shows how quickly things can change. You have to keep pushing until the end.
"If you are in a position to win the championship, that is where your focus is on, but I can assure you that we are also working for next year. The cars will change again quite a bit, so you have to focus early enough and start early enough to be there right from the beginning. But, as I said, it is obviously a different situation for us, maybe, in comparison to other teams. We are in a very good position for this year and, obviously, the target is for everyone to win races and, ultimately, the world championship. We are in a very good position to do so, so that's where our main focus is."
Much has been made about the mistakes and unreliability that has cost Vettel what could have been a sizeable championship lead - with car trouble in both Bahrain and Australia, the clash with team-mate Webber in Turkey, the puncture at Silverstone and 'sleeping' behind the safety car in Hungary all included in the list - and the German admits that his tally could, and should, have been higher heading to Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
"I think, yes, we should probably have more points," he accepted, before launching into a colourful analogy to describe his situation, "We have a saying – I don't know if it makes any sense in English – but, where I come from, we say 'if the dog wouldn't have gone for a sh*t, he would have got the cat' which is basically 'would, could, should'.
"It's all fine but, at the end of the day, what matters are the points you have on the scoreboard. I think we're very close. Obviously, Mark is leading the championship, but I'm only ten points behind. We're first in the constructors' [championship]. I think, yes, you could argue we should have scored more points but, then again, other teams and other drivers are in a similar position - they should have scored more than they did.
"So, in the end, we are who we are and this is where we are at. Basically, the championship starts from more or less zero now and we have to focus on every single race. With 20 races to go, or 15 races, there's obviously more chance - or, probably, more room - for mistakes and, with only seven to go, you know that every single one is more important."