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Vettel: Don't compare me to Schumacher!

19 November 2010

Newly-crowned F1 2010 World Champion Sebastian Vettel has called upon those lavishing him with plaudits for his tremendous achievement in becoming the sport's youngest-ever title-winner not to compare him to his record-breaking compatriot Michael Schumacher – arguing that whilst 'he's a legend...I'm only at the start'.

Vettel wrote his own way into the F1 history books by overturning both the odds and a 15-point deficit to erstwhile world championship leader Fernando Alonso in the Abu Dhabi season finale last weekend, as he raced to a supreme triumph at Yas Marina – his second in as many years – whilst both his Ferrari rival and Red Bull Racing team-mate Mark Webber found themselves mired in traffic.

However, although he makes it clear that he has no intention of giving his trophy up in 2011 – reasoning that 'we have in this team something decisive for success in F1...good people in the right jobs' – Vettel insists he has some way to go yet to even begin to be able to be spoken about in the same breath as multiple world champion 'Schumi'...

“I don't compare his career and his life with mine,” the man dubbed 'Baby Schumi' told German newspaper Bild. “He's a legend and I'm only at the start. In terms of age, all those options are open – but there is no guarantee.”

The past week has been a veritable whirlwind of emotions and ovations for Vettel, and now that he has had time to reflect upon just what he has accomplished – stealing Lewis Hamilton's thunder by claiming the sport's ultimate prize 166 days younger than the Briton did two years ago to become the 33rd different F1 World Champion – the 23-year-old concedes it has been quite a ride.

“When I crossed the line [in Abu Dhabi], I did not know if it was enough or not,” he confessed, revealing that he only finally believed it was true after checking Wikipedia the following day. “It was funny – I knew I had won the race, but I was ready to accept the outcome of the championship no matter what because you don't win or lose it in one afternoon. All weekend, I tried not to focus on the championship as the situation was pretty clear – we had to try to win the race, do our maximum and the rest was up to the others.

“I was waiting for my engineer to make the call. He came on the radio and said we had to wait until the others had finished. I already thought it hadn't worked and I hadn't won. He went through the positions and then told me I was world champion. Everything stopped.”

Since then, by stark contrast, Vettel has scarcely had the opportunity to stand still, with visits to Red Bull's headquarters in Salzburg, Austria – where the moment when he dissolved into tears on the race's slowing-down lap was replayed on a giant screen, just as memorable albeit in a different way as predecessor Jenson Button's off-key rendition of 'We are the Champions' at Interlagos last year – and the RBR factory in Milton Keynes in the UK.

Palpably relaxed, the man who now has the F1 records for youngest world champion, youngest race-winner and youngest pole position-holder knows he has some mountain to climb to overtake Schumacher's tally of seven drivers' crowns and 91 grand prix victories in the top flight, but then, records are there to be broken.

Germany's only other title-winner was two years older than Vettel when he lifted the laurels for the first time – but Vettel suggests the present era is a tougher one in which to repeat his success than that in which Schumacher swept to glory after glory.

“Ten years ago I watched F1 on a Sunday and fell asleep,” he quipped. “Michael was winning everything! From the inside and probably the outside this season was very exciting, with five guys in it almost to the end – four to the final race. The cars are so close, separated by hundredths of a second. It was not easy to be top this season.”

That much is indisputable, and Vettel had to overcome various incidences of misfortune and adversity along the way – some admittedly of his own making – in order to end up where he did, displaying an indomitable spirit and keen determination to reach his goals, despite Lady Luck at times seeming to forget that he even existed with one reliability issue after another plaguing his RB6. That he was regarded as a rank outsider heading into Abu Dhabi and yet still prevailed speaks volumes.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has told Austrian television station ORG that 'he will be world champion a few times more, provided he is sitting in the right car…and we will do our best to give that car to him' – but whilst the Austrian energy drinks magnate and Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner are evidently eager to keep hold of their young protégé, Vettel himself offers no cast-iron assurances as to what the long-term future holds.

“Ferrari and Mercedes represent the history, the present and certainly the future of F1,” he mused. “Each driver dreams of Ferrari or Mercedes, but to drive for these teams depends on a number of factors. Everything has to fall into place – to be a myth isn't sufficient. All that is a long way off for me...

“The past couple of months have been a unique experience and I have experienced great moments, which I will never forget, but there were also some difficult situations. I am very proud of what we have achieved – it's a great moment for me and for the whole team.

“I'm looking forward to some relaxing moments now, in order to realise what's just happened. It is of course now the time to enjoy the success, but we will soon be facing new challenges and the aim for next year is to defend both titles. There is lots to do, but I'm convinced that we will once again be among the best teams competing.

“I am very happy with this team; we're like a big family, and everyone has fun and is dedicated to what they are doing – only when it's like this is it possible to achieve at such a high level. Without the support I received from the Red Bull Junior Programme, I would not be sitting here today as a world champion.”


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