After winning the 2012 F1 world championship with sixth place in the Brazil Grand Prix at Interlagos, Sebastian Vettel's reference to the 'dirty tricks' of his rivals seemed like a sharp rebuke at the tactics of his chief rivals for the title, Ferrari
and their lead driver Fernando Alonso.
"We remained ourselves throughout the whole year even though people did some things that we would never consider to do," Vettel told the press immediately after the gruelling race in Sao Paulo on Sunday afternoon.
"People tried everything, inside the lines and outside the lines, to beat us and the amount of questions we had to deal with, stuff we had to deal with throughout the season, didn't make our life easier," he said. "A lot of people tried to play dirty tricks but we did not get distracted by that and kept going our way."
Many people hearing the comments assumed that this was directed at Ferrari
for their decision to intentionally incur a gearbox penalty at the Circuit of the Americas
last week to give themselves a better chance of a good result in the United States Grand Prix.
There have also been suggestions that rumours linking Vettel with a 2014 move to Ferrari
were deliberately stoked by his pit lane rivals to try and drive a wedge between Vettel and the Red Bull
team. Another area of frustration for Vettel was the number of times the legality of the 2012 Red Bull
car had been questioned during the season, both officially and by rumour-mongering in the press.
Vettel, however, wasn't going to be drawn any further about his 'dirty tricks' comment and sought to play the whole thing down in a later media appearance.
"I think I've mentioned everything I have to mention," he said. "I think it's clear but it's not for us to rate or comment on that, because it's not our decision, it's not in our hands.
"We have to focus on what we have, what is in our hands and [worth] getting excited about what others are doing," he added. "What's the point? Of course you can but it only carries you away and distracts you and you lose your focus.
Vettel admitted that he was hardly perfect himself, but he added that he hoped he had never played 'dirty' in his pursuit of a third title.
"I make mistakes like everyone else but I think the way I was brought up was to be honest and admit if you do something wrong," he insisted. "I was brought up that way to be honest and I also believe that's a reason why we succeeded in the end.
"I think for us, for me, it's always most important that you're happy with what you see in the mirror and you're honest to yourself," he added. "What's the point in trying to fake or pretend being something else, someone else? You are always the first one to notice, you're always the first one to know if you are cheating yourself."