The way that Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to muscle his way past Red Bull Racing team mate Mark Webber to claim victory in the second race of the year surprised many fans who hadn't ascribed such a ruthless streak to the multiple world champion.

But this week, with his fourth world champion safely under his belt, Vettel has admitted that however laid back he appeared around the paddock, a ruthless streak is very much part of his personality once he gets behind the wheel of his car and indeed is an essential part of achieving success in the sport.

"You have to be ruthless at times," he said. "But I think you have to be fair and respect your competitors, because equally you want them to respect you."

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And Vettel said that the two sides of his demeanour in and out of the car were two equally valid sides to the same coin.

"You don't really change the person you are but in competition-mode the priority is to do your maximum and try to win," he explained. "Not at all costs, but if you see a gap you have to go for it."

Vettel has already claimed a plethora of sporting records during his F1 career and this year could claim another - that of the most consecutive wins in the sport.

Vettel comes into this weekend with seven back-to-back victories, having been unbeaten in competition since he won at Spa-Francorchamps at the end of August on the first race back from the summer hiatus. That puts him equal in the number of consecutive wins with Alberto Ascari and Michael Schumacher, and means he could go one better if he crossed the line first again on Sunday in Austin.

Vettel might be more of a purist, however, and attribute a record of nine consecutive wins to Ascari who didn't take part in one world championship race during the run, as few of the European drivers opted to participate in the Indianapolis 500 which was formally on the calendar in 1953.

"It's a long weekend and I'm not really here to break a record. It's a nice grand prix and a nice weekend, and surely I wouldn't mind if it turns out to be the case, but it's not the reason why I jump in the car."