"To limp home, under the [second] safety car - obviously at that moment I didn't know if it was enough," said Vettel. "I was told a couple of laps before that it should be fine, but then I didn't know."
And then the word had come from team principal Christian Horner: it was indeed enough, and Vettel was now a three-time champion, even if he wasn't able to clinch the title with a podium as he'd been hoping for.
"Sixth is still a very good result," he pointed out. "Some races this year we would have been happy to finish sixth, so we can be very happy with that, and obviously it happened to be the last race and the championship decider and it went in our favour."
And whatever the end position, the championship had certainly been decided in a thrilling season finale for all concerned.
"I think you guys had your show, we had to really fight until the end," said the 2012 world champion.