Sebastian Vettel admits that, having reached the top of the F1 mountain, he needs to adopt a tougher mindset to cope with the rarefied atmosphere of chasing a first world championship - but he believes that he can still succeed in 2010.
Speaking exclusively to the official F1 website, Vettel accepted that, despite having the best car in the field, he had made mistakes that could potentially cost him this year's world championship, but insisted that he was not the only one to show signs of cracking under pressure, and claimed that he could still overcome the 24-point deficit that separates him Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber from the top of the table.
The German has been the dominant force in qualifying, claiming seven pole positions, but has only converted that advantage into a brace of victories, with a string of errors - both of his making and the team's - leaving him as the championship outsider with five races to run. Vettel refuses to dwell on the downside of the campaign so far, however.
"You always know why something happened, and you draw self-confidence from that fact," he reasoned, "Every race that I started from pole position had its own history and drama. The really important thing is that, when you come home in the evening, you are able to look yourself in the mirror - no matter how the race has been. It's very important to be honest with yourself and not try and sugar-coat anything. Then you can easily live with anything that comes your way.
"I guess my dad chews on things much more then I do. For me, as long as you understood what happened and why, then you can accept it. For example, you are in the lead and the engine blows, and then you naturally want to understand why it happened. You immediately question if it was your mistake or [if] you have been too aggressive. But, if it was none of those factors and you have understood why it happened, then you just move on. That is the only way you can handle such situations, in order to be fully there for the next race.
"I think, if you move to the top of the mountain and the air is getting thinner up there, then you have to be strong-headed. I would argue that there are many racing drivers who can drive incredibly quickly, but being able to reach the ultimate goal is something that is decided in your own head. To be ready, when it counts. Thoughts about being jinxed [or] whatever, means your head is already occupied, and you probably just end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy. And that is not for me!"
Branded the 'crash kid' by McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh after the accident that took Jenson Button out of the Belgian Grand Prix - and, coincidentally, denied himself a scoring opportunity - Vettel accepts that there have been errors on his behalf, but insists that he is not the only one making them.
"It has been a rollercoaster ride for a number of drivers - including me," he conceded, "I admit that I have made two mistakes, minor mistakes, which had huge impacts. Other drivers made mistakes too, but it doesn't help me that Fernando Alonso, a two-time world champion, spiralled himself off the track in Spa, or Lewis [Hamilton] in Monza, when he tried to find a gap to pass Felipe [Massa] when there wasn't one. These things don't change my situation.
"I can live with my mistakes and I have learnt my lesson. There was only one race where I would say that I was the reason for not scoring the most amount of points possible - Spa. One out of 14 races. I can live with that and I stand tall about what I've done. I wanted to pass Jenson and it was a little mistake that had a bigger impact. We have a car that doesn't allow me to pass a McLaren or Mercedes on the straight, so I have to try something with the brakes. When it happened I was clearly faster and I saw a chance and wanted to seize it. Unfortunately it didn't work, I lost the car and regrettably took Jenson out as well.