Sebastian Vettel says it is only natural he should be seen as the favorite for the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship given his form over the past two years.
The 24-year-old German enters the season chasing an historic third consecutive title, a feat only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher have achieved. Having captured 11 wins and 15 pole positions in a "nearly faultless" 2011, Vettel says it is logical for him to be considered favorite even as other teams gradually close the gap to Red Bull.
"Generally, the one who wins it the year before is usually among the favorites the next season," Vettel told Britain's The Guardian newspaper.
Asked if he considered himself the outright favorite, he replied: "Yes. Last year was nearly faultless, and if I see the steps the team has taken, it's incredible. You don't have this kind of season very often. Even if you look at the seasons Michael had, when dominating, we did something special.
"The last two years we came up with some very clever solutions and it's normal that, after a while, people work out how to copy us. I think last year we didn't have a car as strong as 2010, but we were stronger as a team. Rules change and that's part of Formula 1."
Vettel also pledged not to let his effort and dedication wane away from the track, explaining that success drives his passion for the sport.
"Just because you know how to win a championship doesn't mean you forget all the small steps you take," he said. "[If] I've just finished my debrief with the team I could go off for dinner, but I won't. If the engine pops in a race I would feel bad and think maybe it was because I was lazy and didn't push 100 percent.
"If I make a mistake, OK, it happens. As long as I've done everything to be at the top of my game then I'm all right. That's why I'm happy to work late. It's the same as every other job: you need passion to succeed. Yes, being a racing driver is a special job but, generally, if you don't like what you do then you're not going to be very good.
"Obviously, racing in F1, all of us are very fortunate because we're doing something we loved as a child and now it's our job –and we earn good money. So for us, as drivers, it's great. And when you're successful it becomes even better."