DOUBLE world champion Sebastian Vettel insists his second title was harder to win than his first, despite sealing his record-breaking successive triumphs with four races to spare.
Vettel became the ninth and youngest man to successfully defend his crown yesterday in Japan, where he finished third behind two former champions, Britain’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
The only surprise was that the German, whose defence had long looked inevitable, did not cap the occasion with a 10th win of a season in which he has never finished lower than fourth.
But he said: “The hardest thing is winning after winning last year. We won the championship, it was so close and we were so excited, even knowing how to do it doesn’t allow you to forget all these steps. It is as confusing as the first one.”
If last season’s title success was dramatic, this one has been utterly predictable since he began the campaign with five wins from the first six grands prix – but more satisfying for the 24-year-old.
Vettel added: “Last year it was all over and there was a long time out of the car. It’s a bit different this year and it makes it more special, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.
“I never imagined that I would win the world championship, and the second world championship, and Michael [Schumacher] drives past me doing this [thumbs up]. Life for all of us doesn’t get much better than this.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner was quick to celebrate the success by reminding McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh of his unflattering description of “the crash kid” Vettel little more than a year ago.
“He’s had to eat those words this year, hasn’t he?” said Horner. “Sebastian has just benefited from more experience and the level that he has operated at has been phenomenal this year. He really has raised the bar.”
“I’ll eat them,” Whitmarsh retorted, adding: “I have said, and I’ll say again, I think Sebastian has driven fantastically this year.”
Button congratulated Vettel on his title win, but interrupted celebrations to question his refusal to let the McLaren man pass at the start.
“Didn’t you see me at the start?” Button asked, to which Vettel replied “You were behind”. Button added: “Come on, halfway alongside. OK, that’s how we’re racing then.”
RESULTS | JAPANESE GRAND PRIX
RACE RESULT: TOP SIX
1. Jenson Button 1hr 30mins 53.427secs
2. Fernando Alonso 1:30:54.587
3. Sebastian Vettel 1:30:55.433
4. Mark Webber 1:31:01.498
5. Lewis Hamilton 1:31:17.695
6. Michael Schumacher 1:31:20.547
STANDINGS: TOP SIX
1. Sebastian Vettel 324 points
2. Jenson Button 210
3. Fernando Alonso 202
4. Mark Webber 194
5. Lewis Hamilton 178
6. Felipe Massa 90
ROLL CALL | VETTEL JOINS DOUBLE CLUB
Sebastian Vettel is the youngest and most recent driver to win consecutive world titles. The German joins an illustrious list featuring some of the greatest names in motorsport history.
Alberto Ascari 1952-53
Juan Manuel Fangio 1954-1957
Jack Brabham 1959-60
Alain Prost 1985-86
Ayrton Senna 1990-91
Michael Schumacher 1994-95 & 2000-04
Mika Hakkinen 1998-99
Fernando Alonso 2005-06
Sebastian Vettel 2010-11