Formula One: Two-in-a-row for champ Vettel
Japanese Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel drew a deep breath, smiled and looked like a man who did not know where to begin as he savoured becoming the youngest ever back-to-back world champion. “It's been a fantastic year, and it's not over yet,” said the 24-year-old German.
“Congrats to Jenson [Button] and Fernando [Alonso] because today it was extremely tight, with the top four cars within 10 seconds.
“This year we've always been one step ahead and everyone has been pushing more than 100 per cent. One person really stands out this year, who I spent most of my time with: my trainer Tommy [Parmakoski], who has a great heart and would not allow me at any stage to lose the grip.”
He paused for a moment to draw another breath, and looked sheepish.
“I'm sorry for making this a bit long,” he said. “The hardest thing is winning after winning.
“After last year when we won the championship it was so close and we were all so excited, so to go out and do it again — I couldn't have done this without all the support from the team. This one is as confusing as the first one, and it's hard to find the right words.”
Apart from the start after he cut off Button's attempt to pass him off the line, his one glitch came as he was lapping Timo Glock's Virgin, at the height of the fight with Alonso. “I don't know, maybe he should use both his mirrors,” he said. “I wasn't taking any stupid risks but I didn't expect him to come back on line, which he did. I lost the connection and then was never really close enough to pass Fernando.
“But it was a fun race, especially as we were closing in on Jenson. I thought then, ‘Now you know how it feels when people are closing in', it's not the most comfortable feeling.
“It wasn't so easy today, and we weren't that quick on the soft tyres. But at the end of the race we had a very good car, but it was difficult to get past Fernando.
“I guess I got my move on him at Monza [where Vettel overtook Alonso on his way to victory at the Italian Grand Prix last month], so he's not letting me through twice.
“To win the world championship here is special but it's a bit funny at the same time. I'm just supposed to say, ‘Yep, that's the moment, enjoy it', but I'm sure it will take time to sink in.”
Button agreed. “This was a very special victory for me, but it's not as big as Seb winning the world championship,” he said. “But to win a race like this does take time to sink in. Normally it comes when you are on your own and you can think of what you've achieved. And I'm sure the championship thing will come to Seb about five or six in the morning.”
Button said he was proud to have won on one of the great tracks, especially after the late-race pressure.
“I've been watching Seb all year, and decided that was the way to go: cruise it and stick in a quick lap at the end,” he said tongue-in-cheek.
“I had something in hand and was looking after the tyres and fuel, but it wasn't the easiest few laps. The tyre wear was massive, so it wasn't just down to being quicker over one lap, you really had to think throughout the race. Suzuka is a fast, flowing circuit and unforgiving; one mistake and it's game over.
“It's one of the most perfect circuits with a special crowd that's so supportive of us, so I'm ecstatic. It was one of my most special races, because I've never won on such a high-speed circuit.”
Alonso was also pretty happy. “First of all, congratulations to Sebastian,” he said.
“It was a fun race, though there was a lot of tyre degradation. But we came back to a good level.
“We had the pace today to fight with McLaren and Red Bull Racing. At the end it was difficult to keep Seb behind. I saw we were catching Jenson so I tried in the last couple of laps, but he was just looking after tyres and fuel, and it was impossible to fight for victory.
“It's a fantastic podium, though, and a good thing for the team after difficult races where we were not so competitive. This podium means a lot to the team.” Lewis Hamilton, fifth after an early puncture and later a brush with Felipe Massa, said: “This was a disappointing race. Jenson did a remarkable job today — he really deserved this victory, but it wasn't a great one for me.
“I don't really know what happened with Felipe — my car's mirrors vibrate at high-speed, so I couldn't see him pulling alongside me.
“I want to apologise for our cars touching, but fortunately nothing happened to either of us.”