In a candid interview, defending F1 World Champion and current runaway 2011 pace-setter Sebastian Vettel has insisted that he is 'not a god, just a normal person', that success has not changed him and that he is 'well aware that my moment in the sun could end at any time'.
He might have finished 'only' second following his final lap error in last weekend's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, but Vettel's minor slip-up across the Pond was just the second time this season that he has not ascended the top step of the podium, as the Red Bull Racing star has claimed an ominous five victories from the opening seven races of the campaign to establish a commanding 60-point advantage in the title chase. Had the sport gone to Bahrain as it was due to back in March, he would most likely have triumphed there, too.
History shows that every other driver to have made such a dominant start to a season has gone on to lift the crown that same year, but Vettel is eager to keep his feet planted firmly on the ground. Already F1's youngest-ever points-scorer, race-leader, pole position-holder, race-winner and world champion, he has the coveted number one on his Red Bull RB7 in 2011, and he palpably has no intention of giving it up. But beyond that, the 23-year-old German urges, he is simply an everyday guy.
“I don't wake up and think about being world champion,” he told the Daily Mail
. “All I think about is the next race. I may have won the championship, but it's not as if I have any particular advantage because of that. In F1, once the season is over, everything is equal for the best teams as we all have to start from zero again.
“I'm well aware that my moment in the sun could end at any time – I could break a leg falling down stairs and it would all be over. The best part of being No.1 is that nobody can take that away from me. I'm very proud of that, and whether I have a good day or a bad day, I have proved to myself that I can do it.
“Of course, you have to make a lot of sacrifices to be the best. When I was younger, I can remember hot days when everyone was going to the pool after school and I went straight home and jumped on my bike and sweated for two hours.
“I would have loved to have skipped training and gone to the pool, but that's just how it was. It was the same when I was racing go-karts – I missed out on a lot of birthday parties. I wasn't too happy about it at the time, but then it's not as if I missed out. As soon as I was at the racetrack, I was happy again.
“I wouldn't say that being No.1 has changed me. There are some things I can't do as freely as everybody else, but I can still walk down the street and go to the cinema without any trouble, and when I go to watch my favourite football team, Eintracht Frankfurt, I watch from the stands rather than the VIP box. There are always people who want to take my picture, but it's not a problem. You just have to deal with it.
“In many ways, motor racing is just the same as any other business. You have a target to achieve, and you work incredibly hard for it. The day you achieve it, it's the best thing that can happen to you. Then you start to look for the next challenge. I think that's why there is no genuine friendship between rival drivers. From what people tell me, back in the seventies, the drivers went on holiday together with their wives. Times have changed; nobody today is that close. Each team is totally isolated with its own support staff and sponsors.