Two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes that Sebastian Vettel is driving with more confidence in 2011 now that he has a drivers' title under his belt.
Vettel has won two of the first three races and finished second in last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, which has given him a 19-point lead in this year's championship over Lewis Hamilton. Hakkinen, who secured back-to-back titles for McLaren in 1998 and '99, says that the assurance that being a World Champion brings will assist Vettel in his quest to emulate that achievement.
"Of course, the World Championship gives you confidence," the Finn told AUTOSPORT during an appearance at Goodwood, where he was working as an ambassador for drinks company Johnnie Walker's "Step Inside the Circuit" campaign. "It really gives you confidence. You know you have done it. You've won a title. It's no longer a weight on your shoulders. So now you can focus on the details.
"Then it becomes very enjoyable, you start calculating a little bit, it is really good fun. Other guys are suspecting and wondering how, but you know exactly how it works. That allows your pressure level, what you can take in terms of pressure, to be much higher than others. Because you understand things that other people have yet to experience.
The 42-year-old cautioned that being World Champion comes with the price of more demands being made outside the cockpit, but added that the sport is now very different from the one he quit at the end of 2001.
"The amount of marketing work I did after '98 was just horrendous," he said. "That is guaranteed if you win the championship. I think for me it was harder because I had so much work. After '98 there was all the marketing work, all the testing work.
"You are not allowed to test [midseason] these days, but marketing work is a bit different than it used to be, so you burn much more physical and mental power through that."