Newly-crowned F1 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has called upon those lavishing him with plaudits for his tremendous achievement in becoming the sport's youngest-ever title-winner not to compare him to his record-breaking compatriot Michael Schumacher – arguing that whilst 'he's a legend...I'm only at the start'.
Vettel wrote his own way into the F1 history books by overturning both the odds and a 15-point deficit to erstwhile world championship leader Fernando Alonso in the Abu Dhabi season finale last weekend, as he raced to a supreme triumph at Yas Marina – his second in as many years – whilst both his Ferrari rival and Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber found themselves mired in traffic.
However, although he makes it clear that he has no intention of giving his trophy up in 2011 – reasoning that 'we have in this team something decisive for success in F1...good people in the right jobs' – Vettel insists he has some way to go yet to even begin to be able to be spoken about in the same breath as multiple world champion 'Schumi'...
“I don't compare his career and his life with mine,” the man dubbed 'Baby Schumi' told German newspaper Bild
. “He's a legend and I'm only at the start. In terms of age, all those options are open – but there is no guarantee.”
The past week has been a veritable whirlwind of emotions and ovations for Vettel, and now that he has had time to reflect upon just what he has accomplished – stealing Lewis Hamilton's thunder by claiming the sport's ultimate prize 166 days younger than the Briton did two years ago to become the 33rd different F1 World Champion – the 23-year-old concedes it has been quite a ride.
“When I crossed the line [in Abu Dhabi], I did not know if it was enough or not,” he confessed, revealing that he only finally believed it was true after checking Wikipedia
the following day. “It was funny – I knew I had won the race, but I was ready to accept the outcome of the championship no matter what because you don't win or lose it in one afternoon. All weekend, I tried not to focus on the championship as the situation was pretty clear – we had to try to win the race, do our maximum and the rest was up to the others.
“I was waiting for my engineer to make the call. He came on the radio and said we had to wait until the others had finished. I already thought it hadn't worked and I hadn't won. He went through the positions and then told me I was world champion. Everything stopped.”
Since then, by stark contrast, Vettel has scarcely had the opportunity to stand still, with visits to Red Bull's headquarters in Salzburg, Austria – where the moment when he dissolved into tears on the race's slowing-down lap was replayed on a giant screen, just as memorable albeit in a different way as predecessor Jenson Button's off-key rendition of 'We are the Champions' at Interlagos last year – and the RBR factory in Milton Keynes in the UK.
Palpably relaxed, the man who now has the F1 records for youngest world champion, youngest race-winner and youngest pole position-holder knows he has some mountain to climb to overtake Schumacher's tally of seven drivers' crowns and 91 grand prix victories in the top flight, but then, records are there to be broken.