Despite accruing various records and setting new marks in his still-young F1 career, Sebastian Vettel insists that it is the thrill of crossing the line first that still excites him most.
The German joined a select group by winning five straight races following Sunday's victory in Japan, and the extended points cushion it gives him over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso means that he only requires a fifth-place finish in India in two weeks' time to clinch a fourth successive world championship crown. Although several drivers have taken back-to-back titles, only two – all-time greats Juan-Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher - have managed four in succession, putting Vettel is esteemed company.
The Red Bull driver, while well aware of the significance of the sport's history, insists that records are not what motivates him most, admitting that he still gets his biggest kicks from climbing into the cockpit on a Sunday afternoon.
“You know, I love racing,” he noted after his Suzuka success, “When I was small, I was dreaming about F1 and honestly never thought that, one day, I would be able to test one of these cars.
“The first time I tested the car, it was... Mark drove in the morning, I drove in the afternoon. I sh*t myself the first couple of laps and thought 'alright, that's for real men, not for me'. Then I got used to it and obviously wanted to do more.
“A couple of years later, I had the chance to get a drive, as Red Bull gave me the chance at Toro Rosso to get some races. It's incredible what's happened over the last couple of years, but nothing has changed in the way that I still love racing, I love the challenge, I'm still nervous when I wake up on Sunday, still excited when I walk on the grid and tense, looking forward to the race. I'm enjoying the fact that I'm racing.
“I think it would be a shame if you were too tense, and if you tried to force things too much. I think you have to allow yourself to enjoy it because this is not normal, it doesn't happen to everyone. I think I'm very fortunate that I'm one of these 22-24 guys in F1. That's what I'm looking forward to most, obviously trying to do it again. I love trophies, so I don't mind collecting a few!”
As has become customary, Vettel refuses to accept the championship is his until it is mathematically impossible for his rivals to beat him, even if, as is the case this year, the likes of Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton have already conceded.
“First of all, I would like to enjoy today,” Vettel insisted, “I think it was a fantastic race. I love this track - the people are great and make it a very, very special place for us. I'd love to enjoy that first although obviously, for the championship, it does no harm when you win. I've won now four times here in Suzuka, which is incredible. I'm really looking forward to next year, to be honest.