At a promotional appearance at Red Bull Racing technical partner Infiniti's headquarters following last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel said the magnitude of winning his second straight title, and becoming the youngest two-time champion in Formula 1 history, has yet to fully sink in. (Scroll down for video of his remarks.)
The 24-year-old joined an elite list of drivers including Fernando Alonso, Emerson Fittipaldi and Jim Clark in winning his second World Championship crown. While the title was all but assured following victory one race earlier in Singapore, Vettel says he was never thinking about the championship during the Japanese Grand Prix and that it will take time to fully appreciate his feat.
"You see all these double World Champions, names I have known for a long, long time, and it's a weird feeling – it's difficult to understand that yes, you are a part of them," Vettel said in a press conference on the Monday following Suzuka. "Sometimes you have to press pause to realize what is happening. Even last year winning the World Championship was the ultimate target of my life, so seeing yourself close to these guys is outstanding.
"In Suzuka, I didn't really think about the championship – I was busy with other things. The adrenaline is pumping, you are focused on the race and then it's a big relief, but to switch into, 'We've done it! We've won the championship!' – it's not as easy as that. That's why I think it takes time."
Vettel said it was impossible to compare his sensations in winning his first and second titles, as he hailed the impact of his team – and the winning culture which they have fostered – on his performances in 2011.
The first title will always remain something special, very similar to the first grand prix victory," he said. "You can't say that was better than this, it doesn't work that way. If you look at last year and this year it's completely different. Last year we led it once, at the end; this year we led it all the way.
"We have raised our level and everyone has become much more mature. If there is anything, that's the secret. We have done it our way, our own style, and coming out on top – that feeling is in many ways unbeatable.
"Sometimes you have to pinch yourself. I am a normal person, I love what I do and I am very fortunate to do something so many people around the world follow. It's hard to beat that, so you have to enjoy it."
The Red Bull driver also said he would keep his feet on the ground despite his success, saying: "I think you are the person you are and you change, you grow up, so life changes and its not so easy to remember the person you truly are.
"There might be temptation but ultimately everything that flies has to come back down so it's not too wise to start flying. Yesterday night we were flying a little bit but I think that's fine."