Sebastian Vettel admits that his 2011 F1 campaign will be difficult to repeat after insisting that 'such a year doesn't come your way often'.
Although he was forced to retire for the first time this season in Abu Dhabi, the Red Bull Racing man has taken no fewer than 14 pole positions this season and has visited the top step of the podium on eleven occasions.
Those results allowed the German to defend his title with ease this season, although he admits that it wasn't quite as easy as it may have appeared from the outside.
“One thing is for sure - such a year doesn't come your way too often,” he told the official F1 website. “It was a well-woven tale right from the beginning without a moment of buckling. The car never let us down - and we never let ourselves down. Sure, there were some small issues here and there, but we never ran into a bad-case scenario - nothing like that at all. (laughs) The major improvement over last season is that we have never been irritated by situations. Even if the boat started to rock we never stumbled - probably something that was not quite there last year.
“What became clear over the course of the season was that our car hasn't been as dominant as it was in 2010, but what really made a huge difference was we - the people - have grown into one strong force. We have been much more stable and obviously have learned from our 2010 mistakes. It is funny to get comments after a successful race: you hear descriptions like 'easy', 'walk in the park' and so on - and it was definitely nothing of the sort at any race of the season. Every victory was hard fought and contrary to what people might think, it was closer, much closer than it looked from the outside. Everything had to come together - and that was what was so special, that we've managed to make it come together at so many races.”
Vettel added that his success was down in no small part to the way in which the team has worked to improve in recent seasons, from one capable of challenging for race wins to one that can put together a championship challenge.
“Let's go back to 2009,” he reflected. “We found ourselves in a position where we had a very strong car, had been on the podium and won races, but we really didn't understand how we did it when we did it, how to play with the 'big boys'. (laughs) Since then we've learned so much, got much smarter and probably lost the awe for the big names - but never the respect for our competitors.
“Christian [Horner] is playing a very important role to keep the team in harmony - to balance it - because only if you all pull together will you be successful. We are all working flat out to improve the car and the team - and get results - and that is all done with a fantastic team spirit, because it is not the product that you start the season with that brings success, but the product that you have at the end of the season after many months and many races.”
While many people see Vettel as favourite to win for the third straight season in 2012, he admits that it won't be easy to secure a hat-trick, with a number of drivers eager to steal away his crown.
“There is definitely not one driver I would highlight because we are living in a Formula One era where you don't have one challenger but many - with different strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “That much I can say. McLaren were very strong this year with both drivers - Jenson and Lewis. It probably wasn't the easiest year for Lewis, but that doesn't mean that this will also go for 2012. Fernando with Ferrari will definitely be there and I also have Mercedes on the list, with two great drivers. And never forget Mark. So I will drop not one name, but many names. That's my opinion.”