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Sebastian Vettel Exclusive: I never stopped believing 20 Nov 2010

2010 Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi 2010 Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi 2010 Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi 2010 Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi 2010 Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi

He may have only been in Formula One for three full seasons, but Sebastian Vettel’s career is already record breaking. Not only is he the youngest driver to score points, clinch a pole position and win a race, Vettel is now the youngest world champion. Still youthful enough to miss watching Grands Prix on the TV, the sport’s brightest talent must now find the maturity to handle being a global superstar. We talked exclusively with the 23 year-old Red Bull driver about his historic title success…

Q: Sebastian, what have you been up to since winning the title?
Sebastian Vettel:
After the immediate celebration on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, we jumped on a plane without sleeping to Austria, where a huge reception - and lots of questions - were waiting for the victorious team. Then the evening closed with a small party. Next day the UK was on the schedule with a similar programme to the one in Salzburg. But it was really special because we were with the whole team again, including all the guys in the factory - the folks who made that incredible success happen. On Wednesday evening I touched down again in Abu Dhabi. At some points over the past few days, when I was snoozing away on the plane and waking up again, I wasn’t sure where I was. It was tough, but on the other hand I feel that we’ve made a lot of people happy in a short time.

Q: You’ve spent all that time with team mate Mark Webber. Have you had a chance to talk about your issues during the season?
Immediately after the race we had a long conversation. He came over to congratulate me and we took the chance to speak. There have been some things that annoyed me over the course of the year and vice versa. We’ve had the chance to set the record straight. I would not say that we have become fond of each other after that conversation, because there have been reasons why we collided, but we respect each other and that is a good basis.

Q: You keep breaking records for being the youngest to win, take the title etc. How do you do it?
In reality it’s not important to me. What counts much more is what was achieved - the wins and the championship. Who knows what is still in the wings for me? But for now I am very happy about what I’ve achieved. I know that I’m not the oldest driver on the grid. Whether things become harder the older you get, I (understandably) cannot know that now.

Q: The young drivers who tested this week might be depressed that you have achieved so much, so young…
Obviously you don’t feel these things. They must look a lot different from the outside. Of course when you take a look from a distance, my career looks like it’s progressing very fast, but for me I take one step at a time. In that way you approach every single task separately and lift the throttle only for moments to identify your position. Of course if you take into account what Formula One means - the top of motorsport - then everything looks quite irrational. A few days ago I thought about how long it is since I’ve watched an F1 race on TV, but how could I lately? I’m part of Formula One. Not so long ago watching F1 races was a light-bulb experience for me, and now I am the champion. Unbelievable!

Q: On your in-lap after the Abu Dhabi race you talked about your time in karting on the team radio, when you and your dad were the underdogs…
Well, I was happy to be able to think at all in that moment. The emotions that start to roll over you are almost impossible to describe. That is the moment when pictures of the past start to cross your mind and you dearly hope that nobody is going to wake you up from your dream.

Q: You have reached an incredible goal. What now?
I will take the time to enjoy the success and then I will celebrate with family and friends. And a bit later on I will start to focus on next season - and the defence of my title.

Q: There is no one single character trait that makes a champion. What do you have?
That I never give up is clearly a very strong candidate for my best character trait. I have led this championship exactly once, at the end, which is what really counted. I remember that a certain James Hunt did it in the same style in 1976. I think that there are a number of drivers in Formula One right now who perform on a very high level, but in the end only one can win. And pure speed is only one factor. In the end to succeed needs a combination of many factors. Over the course of a long season it is sometimes tempting to slacken the reins, so you have to be able to shake yourself up at times and do your thing the way you think is right. But the most important thing is to never give up the belief in yourself. And the team always gave me the feeling that they too believed in me and have never stopped doing so, regardless of how it looked.

Q: Would you back the idea that it was in Monza that you turned everything back in your favour?
Yes, because in Spa I admit I made a mistake. In my opinion, it wasn’t a grave one because I just tried to get past somebody and it didn’t work out. After that I was massively criticized, including by the media. That was a real lesson for me - probably the most important of the whole season. Before that I was a kind of favourite and had to learn to live with the situation, learn to only listen to a small circle of people and invest my energy only in those few, because you know you will get some of that energy back. Monza was next and that persistence was rewarded with P4. It was a very special race in terms of my attitude. From that race on I was able to let loose. I still strongly believed I could win the title, and could do so without clenching up.

Q: Have you had chance to watch the Abu Dhabi race back?
Only parts of it. I watched the last 15 laps with my engineers and mechanics on Sunday evening. That was a quite strange feeling because at that stage of the race I had no idea that I would win the title. To see the tense faces of my crew and the jiggling feet of my team principal Christian Horner was quite something. In the end we’ve done everything right this season and have let nobody irritate us. What the others did was not in our hands and that is how we went into that race. Now I am sure there are many who will say that I was just lucky. But looking at the whole season there were many negative moments where I was asking myself, why me? In the end we seized our chance and the others didn’t. It’s that simple!

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