What now for Formula One’s youngest double world champion Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel? King of the World at least for the day. Did he jet off to a tropical island for a couple of days R&R or finish up snoring in a karaoke bar, surrounded by sentimental singing mechanics with a traffic cone on his head and a compromising tattoo on his conscience?
Actually none of those things. The newly-minted double World Champion kept a prior engagement and straight after the Japanese Grand Prix, he went to Yokohama as a guest of Infiniti Motors to chat with fans, some of whom had spent the night waiting for him. Before stepping out onto the stage, he had time to chat to his Red Bull Racing predecessor David Coulthard.
Here’s the edited highlights of what Seb had to say. His voice was a little croaky, but not from the emotion of his deeds – he confessed there has been a spot of karaoke after all. Turns out he does a mean rendition of Yellow Submarine.
DC: It’s a few hours since you won your second World Championship. Have you really had time for this to sink in?
SV: Not a lot of time! Not even a day and, to be honest, not a lot of sleep. When we crossed the line it was certainly a big relief but it will take some time to sink in. In a way it’s as confusing as the first title. For me it’ll take a while to understand. It’s difficult to put that into words.
We had a fantastic night last night and… yeah, my voice is still a bit scratchy after some karaoke and fun with the team. Obviously we had a little bit of a celebration but not too much because we have to go to Korea now.
DC: How does it compare to winning that first title?
SV: The first title will always remain something special, very similar to the first grand prix victory. Last year and this year are completely different. Last year I led the championship only once, right at the end. This year I led it all the way. It’s been an incredible season so far and the best thing is that it is still going on. We have four more races in which we want to fight for victory and get the best we can. After that we focus on next year.
The team is operating at an incredibly high level of performance right now. We are the same people as last year but it’s like a different team. We have raised our game, everyone is more mature and even when the boat started shaking, we kept it on course.
DC: I’ve always been impressed by the way you keep your feet on the ground. Is that something you work on or just who you are?
SV: I think a bit of both. You are the person you are. You change, you grow up, life changes and it isn’t always so easy to remember that person, but I think also it depends on the people around you: they make sure you keep your feet on the ground.
DC: Apart from yesterday, what other point personal highs have you had this year?
SV: There have been plenty. Winning is always special but winning on the streets of Monaco – like you’ve done a couple of times – was very, very special. Winning in Spa as well, because winning on the historic circuits always means a lot. There have been a lot of highs. Actually, Germany was the only race where I wasn’t on the podium! I’ll have another go next year…
Actually thinking about finishing fourth in Germany, we’ve had many exceptional races but the other races, where things didn’t come together quite so nicely but we still managed to finish second, or third, or fourth, that’s where the strength is; that’s what’s given us a really, really strong championship. Obviously winning helps you to the top but maybe it’s the other races, the ones where you fight for a podium and you need to be at your best to collect some points. Those are important. We’ve had no DNFs, and Renault have given us an engine that hasn’t had any failures for Mark or myself. It’s an incredible record.
DC: When you won the championship last year, you didn’t know until you took the chequered flag and the rest of your competitors had crossed the line. Going into this race the maths were pretty easy to work out. Were you thinking about it during the grand prix?
SV: The feeling I had in Abu Dhabi was similar to the feeling I had in Singapore this year. I knew we could do it but it depended on where other people finished. When I crossed the line in Singapore obviously I was hoping for it – and then I got the radio call saying ‘you’re one point short!’
Suzuka was a different story. I didn’t really think about the championship; I was focussed on the race and I knew, obviously, what it meant but I was busy with other things. I was surprised, in a way, crossing the line because it’s difficult… you race, the adrenaline is pumping – one and a half hours you are focussed on the race, you take the chequered flag and it’s a big relief. And then to switch into celebration mode… it’s not as easy as that. That’s why, I think, it really takes time.
DC: We enjoyed a really nice moment after the race where you were being interviewed and they played a video showing the other eight [consecutive] world champions and at the end of it you had a tear in your eye…?
SV: Seeing yourself put up with those guys… that’s definitely something. That’s the incredible bit. Sometimes you have to press pause to comprehend what’s happening because you’re living in the moment – which is good because that’s the only way to perform. But then you see all these consecutive World Champions, big names I’ve grown up because I do appreciate the history of F1.
It’s a weird feeling and it’s difficult to understand that, yes, you are part of that. Winning the World Championship for me was the ultimate target of my life. Having achieved that… It might mean something for the history books and the statistics and whatever but most of it is being able to look at yourself in the mirror, knowing you can do it – that’s something very special.
DC: What do you see in the mirror?
SV: I don’t want to get too philosophical!
DC: I think you should…
SV: The point is that you should be happy with what you see. From experience, you make good and bad choices, and sometimes you might not have made the right decisions or not been the fairest guy, and then you struggle to face yourself. Generally to come out of an F1 season, knowing we’ve done an incredible job and then look in the mirror and knowing we’ve done it the right way, our way, in our own style, and come out on top, that feeling is unbeatable.