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Exclusive Sebastian Vettel Q&A: We never stopped believing 19 Dec 2012

Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Indian Grand Prix, Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, New Delhi, India, Qualifying, Saturday, 27 October 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 crosses the finish line to the delight of his team as he takes his third F1 World Championship.
Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012 World Champion Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012 FIA Prize Giving Gala 2012 - Istanbul - FIA Formula One World Championship - Sebastian Vettel - Christian Horner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 24 November 2012 (L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 and Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR7.
Formula One World Championship, Rd20 Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 25 November 2012 Sebastian Vettel is forced to park his car at the side of the track, with more technical issues Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8 passes Bruno Senna (BRA) Williams Renault FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Race, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Sunday, 4 November 2012 Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand.13th - 16th December 2012.Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel with the Race of Champions Nations Cup trophies

Whilst it’s possible to pick up the occasional lucky victory, there’s nothing lucky about winning three world titles, especially when they come in successive years. In winning the 2012 drivers’ crown, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel surpassed the great Ayrton Senna’s record to become the youngest triple champion in Formula One history. He also became only the third man to win three world titles in a row, following in the illustrious footsteps of Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. We caught up with the 25-year-old German to talk about how it felt to rewrite the history books and get his hands on that coveted trophy once again…

Q: Sebastian, it’s now four weeks since you secured your third drivers’ title in Brazil. What goes through your head when you think back to that day?
Sebastian Vettel:
I remember that I had difficulties finding the right words. 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.

Q: We couldn’t see your face when you crossed the finish line - was there an eruption of emotions?
Ha, the eruption came later. 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.

Q: The world championship trophy will remain in your possession for another year…
I had to give it back in October to give it an overhaul - and that was not an easy farewell! (laughs) Of course you hope that it will return to you, but you also understand when you read all the engraved names on it that it has a very distinct life of its own. Now it is back in my kitchen, on the kitchen table, to prod me to go out and fight for it in 2013.

Q: Your name is now inscribed on it three times. Do you place it in such a way that you can read your own name?
Every time I sit at the table I turn it around to read all the names on it - it’s almost a mystic procedure. And to see that the last three engravings are your own name - that moves deeply.

Q: You are only 25 years-old and already a triple world champion. But what’s next? How are you planning to approach 2013? Still with a killer instinct or much more relaxed?
Killer instinct? That’s not me. I know that I have a special position in the team - yes - but I definitely do consider myself as a team member. As a team member I want us to be as successful in 2013 as we have been this year and the two previous years. And personally, I never had to simulate motivation - that is part of my nature. Sure, right now it is nice to savour the title win and everything that goes with it, but what stays in your memory much more than anything else are the steps that got you there: the nervousness on the grid at the first race, the stress when it didn’t work out as planned, the podiums - all these moments stay in your head forever.

Q: Days after you won your third world title, Ferrari asked the FIA to clarify an overtaking move you had made on Jean-Eric Vergne during the Brazilian Grand Prix. Were you ever worried that the trophy would go elsewhere?
To be honest, I never wasted one single thought that an irregularity was involved from my side. 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 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.

Q: It was a rollercoaster season for you, what with the alternator problems in Valencia and Monza and having to start from the back of the grid in Abu Dhabi. What have you learned this season and what was the most testing time for you?
What was key this year was that we never stopped believing. And believe me, that is easier said than done. There are so many ‘experts’ out there making throwaway remarks about who will be the champion and who the loser, and you don’t have to let that get to you. Not the positive and not the negative. You have to focus completely on your own business and never worry about what other people do or don’t do. What some of my competitors might have underestimated - but which probably was a huge cornerstone of the success - is the understanding that every single point counts. Only three points - nearly even less - stood between first and second in the end, between having your name on the trophy again or not.

Q: You’ve just come back from Thailand where you won the Nations Cup at the Race of Champions with Michael Schumacher. Have you had enough competition for a while now?
Ha, that was fun in Bangkok. It was the perfect downer from the fast lane. Now I will concentrate on Sebastian Vettel the individual for the next couple of weeks before I surface again at the beginning of February to get acquainted with the RB9. I want to thank all the fans of Formula One that have followed us over this long season, though I have to say, we have provided fantastic entertainment. Maybe sometimes a bit too much for my taste - but we are fan focused! (laughs)

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