Sebastian Vettel insists that he never questioned whether he may have made a mistake in the Brazilian Grand Prix, even though the destiny of the F1 world title could have been at stake.
Days after he had been crowned world champion for the third time in as many years, main rival Ferrari raised the question that the German may have made a crucial pass under yellow flag conditions. Although the clarification the Scuderia sought confirmed that that had not been the case, an error of judgement could have seen Vettel demoted a couple of places in the results, which would have been enough to hand Fernando Alonso the crown.
In the end, however, onboard footage from the Red Bull showed, albeit murkily, that a green flag had been shown fractionally before Vettel passed Jean-Eric Vergne, putting the German in the clear.
Not that he was too concerned.
“To be honest, I never wasted one single thought that an irregularity was involved from my side,” he told the official F1 website, “Even if it was an eventful race, I definitely saw all the flags - and their colours!
“I only got information that Ferrari was up to something after [Red Bull team principal] Christian [Horner] called me saying that obviously Ferrari was not too happy with the outcome of the race. After the FIA had checked every single inch of the recording of the situation in question - and confirmed that everything was according to rules - Ferrari renounced any protests. But, believe it or not, I knew since the chequered flag that there was not a single movement wrong from my side.”
The entire Interlagos race had been one of incident for Vettel, who survived being spun around on the opening lap to battle back through the field and claim the points he needed to ensure the trophy returned to Milton Keynes. For someone usually effusive when he takes victory, Vettel admitted that he had struggled with the emotion of the moment in Brazil.
“I remember that I had difficulties finding the right words,” he confirmed, “Such a moment takes some time to sink in. It was such a crazy race with unforeseen situations looming almost around every corner - you could rightfully use the word chaotic - and that it ended for us the way it did was due to the fact that we never lost sight of the bigger picture. You start to understand how many small steps it takes to achieve such a result - steps that, when they happen, probably have no big significance for you in that very moment, but that can have quite an impact on the final result. I think that 2012 - and especially that Brazilian race - has taught us that success lies in the detail.
“The moment I crossed the finish line, I was very quiet - somewhat empty. I guess that's what happens when a huge burden comes off your chest. All year long, we've been so focused on that one and only goal - and then suddenly you have reached it. That makes you quiet - and probably a bit helpless - for a short instant. Then, after two weeks, you start to exhale and pick up your life where you left it many months ago.”