Newly crowned 2011 Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel,the youngest racer ever to win two straight driving titles,can’t afford to sit too long on his laurels his next race is less than a week away.
But,he says,that doesn’t mean he can’t spare some time to savor his achievement.
As his Red Bull racing team packed up and headed off for South Korea,Vettel took a day off Monday to do what any 24-year-old on the top of his game and the top of the world might be expected to do.
Bask in his new title.
“We had a little bit of a celebration last night,” the affable German said before greeting a mob of Japanese fans. “But not too much because this week we go to Korea.”
Vettel,who said he spent Sunday night at an Irish bar singing karaoke with his teammates,has good reason to be pleased with himself.
With four races still to be run,his third-place in the Japanese GP on Sunday sealed the drivers title in what has been an overwhelmingly dominant season for him. And with nine races won so far,he is still in contention to equal the season record 13 wins marked by countryman Michael Schumacher.
Vettel is also just two pole positions away from the season record on that front as well now 14,set by Nigel Mansell in 1992.
“Obviously,it was a fantastic day for us,” he said of the race. “When we crossed the line it was certainly a big relief.”
Though the Japanese GP title was won by McLaren driver Jenson Button,Vettel demonstrated his steely will-to-win by defending his early lead by essentially running Button off the road with a sharp turn of the wheel. He appeared to be gunning for the chequered flag again as the race went down to the wire,but settled for the safe third-place finish.
“I got a radio call that the priority was to finish the race,” he said.
In any other race for Vettel this year,third would have been a huge letdown.
The ending on the Suzuka track was his second worst of the year he finished fourth in Germany,in July and has been in the top-two every other race.
His accomplishments have prompted many F1 fans to group him among the greats of the sport along with such drivers as Jackie Stewart,Schumacher,Ayrton Senna and Alain Proust all of whom also took multiple championships.
“He’s had the most phenomenal of years,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “He has raised the level.”
Vettel started winning at age 21,when he took the 2008 Italian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso. That was another record-book moment no driver that young had ever finished first. It was also a sign of better things to come. He won four races for Red Bull in 2009,then five in 2010 to claim his first drivers’ championship.
Celebrating Vettel’s success,thousands of Germans in his hometown of Heppenheim turned out for champagne showers,fireworks and free beer. More than 100,000 revellers welcomed Heppenheim’s hero back last year after he won his first title.
“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself,” he said. “I’m a normal person. It has been an incredible season. We have four more races and we want to get the best we can.”