Nico Hulkenberg has admitted that he had not expected to be able to challenge for the GP2 Series title in his rookie season, after clinching the 2009 crown at Monza this morning.
The 22-year-old German finished third ahead of Vitaly Petrov in today's sprint race - which was enough to put the championship beyond the Russian's race with one meeting still to go.
Hulkenberg was only fourth in the points, 14 behind early leader Romain Grosjean, heading to his home event at the Nurburgring, when a string of three victories turned his season around. The wins put him in control of the championship as his rivals all hit trouble around the same time, giving Hulkenberg a 12 point lead leaving the following meeting in Hungary.
"I didn't expect to be champion in my first year," he said. "Especially after the first three weekends when Barwa [Addax] was so far away, [Romain] Grosjean, with the points.
"But then we made up a lot of ground, improved our speed and our car, I got better and better in the car - as a rookie I had to get some mileage to deal with the car better during races, save my tyres more - and then I think we had our high at Nurburgring, Valencia, Spa.
"All those were very good weekends. We scored a lot of points and were very consistent, and consistency is what wins championships."
He conceded that the title run-in might have been tougher if Grosjean had still been in the series - the Frenchman having left to take a Renault Formula 1 drive following the Hungaroring.
"I think it was less difficult," Hulkenberg admitted. "He was the main rival. Petrov did a very good job at the end - maybe even a better job than Grosjean did before he left - but he was one of the main contenders and it was a loss for the GP2 championship.
"But when such an opportunity comes up, no one says no. Even I wouldn't have said no. It's great for him, he deserved it."