Sebastian Vettel made history in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he became the youngest driver in Formula 1 history to win the world championship.
Although initially totally lost for words after his triumph – as he cried over the radio to thank his team – Vettel managed to compose himself as he first talked to the television audience and then finally the official press conference.
Still almost disbelieving the turn of events that meant his victory was good enough for him to overhaul Fernando Alonso in the title chase, Vettel spoke openly about his remarkable season, his emotions and exactly what the title meant for him. Here's what he had to say...
Q. Sebastian, you have only led this World Championship once this season and that is today.
Sebastian Vettel: "Yeah, I am a bit speechless. I don't know what you are supposed to say at this moment. It has been an incredible tough season for myself, for all of us, physically and mentally especially. We have always kept believing in us and our team and the car and I kept believing in myself.
"Today was a special day all around. This morning I got up and tried not to think about anything, tried to avoid contact with people too much, just tried to do my own thing. I knew that the only thing I could do was try to win this race and do my best. As you say we have only led this championship once and when it mattered. I am speechless. The car was phenomenal.
"The start was crucial. It was very tight with Lewis but then in the first stint I had a bit of graining, so that Lewis got a bit close but then the car stabilised. From then onwards it was a dream. It was good for all of us, it cooled us down, that Lewis got out behind Robert Kubica and got held up, so I could make a gap. To be honest I didn't know anything until I crossed the chequered flag. The last 10 laps I was wondering as my race engineer every lap was trying to give some advice and trying to help me carry the car home.
"I was thinking why is this guy nervous, we must be in a bloody good position. Then crossing the line he came on the radio very silently and said 'it is looking good, but we have to wait until the cars finish'. I was thinking 'what does he mean' and I hadn't seen the screens. I just wanted to make sure, not get any distraction, just focus on myself. Then he came on the radio and screams at me that we have won the world championship. I don't know, it is just...
"I have to say thanks to a lot of people. I will surely forget a lot of those. But to start with the team, all the guys here at the race track, all my mechanics, all the mechanics in the team, not only mine everyone. Engineers. We have an extreme, strong - sorry I make this long - amount of people working together in harmony. Back in Milton Keynes the guys are pushing like hell and I think they enjoy this moment as much as last week.
"Back in Austria all the people that have supported me since the beginning. It has been an incredible journey with Red Bull and after this season with the ups and downs to come here now and lead the championship after the last race is unbelievable. I can only say thanks and also thanks to all the people back in karting. Some of them are here, some of them are in Kerpen supporting me but also back in my home town, Heppenheim, so I just got to say thank you very much.
Q. Some of the spirit of competition this year with these guys and Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber has been a very intense battle all the way through.
SV: "Yeah, it has. I think we have seen incredible fights and a tight season. I don't know how many times we had a different leader in the championship. Some people got written out of this championship very early, then they came back, meaning Fernando with Ferrari whereas in the beginning you thought 'okay, Ferrari is dropping back'. They fought back very hard.
"McLaren came back. Lewis was leading the championship. All of us can write a book about races where we should have finished in higher positions. Lewis had a retirement in Hungary, myself in Australia and Korea. All of us I think we had to go through ups and downs.
"It has been an extremely intense and tough season, mentally especially, to always be there and sometimes just being able to ignore what people are saying and trying to get your own thing done. This was the approach going into the race. Now it is looking good as it all worked and I am very, very proud."
Q. Sebastian, sum up your feelings?
SV: "I guess I am pretty empty at this stage. I don't know what to say. Surely I will find some reasons to keep on talking forever. It is unbelievable. As I said yesterday I went to bed and kept thinking about the race and what might happen and had some good imaginations and always a good feeling for some reason. But then I thought 'now you have to sleep, you have to forget and just fall asleep'. Finally it worked. Took a while and I woke up and felt good but it was extremely tough today to keep the head cool.
"The race went phenomenally well. The car was enjoyable every single lap, so I can only say thanks to the whole team. Renault played a big role in this race as well helping us a little bit, keeping these guys behind. I don't know what to say. For some reason it doesn't feel like this is happening. I asked those two guys 'how did it feel, was it also that strange?' but I guess it will sink in when I finally go to sleep but I think we will have daylight before that happens."
Q. Sebastian, how does it feel?
Q. Only good?
SV: Yeah, incredible. I don't know what to say. I am still a bit empty. I can't believe it. When I crossed the line I did not know if it was enough or not. All weekend I did not try to focus on the championship as the situation was pretty clear. We had to try to win this race, do our maximum and the rest was up to the others. I did the in-lap and just enjoyed it.
"Since I was a little kid I followed Formula 1. Before the race I said to myself 'look there are so many people coming here to Abu Dhabi to watch the race'. So many people thrilled about this race about to take place, watching the world championship decision and to find out who is going to win it. Just to be part of that race and part of that fight, to be one of the four, I was feeling extremely proud, happy.
"I don't want to sound philosophical but we travel so much all year and we get to see so many places, different people, and I was just feeling extremely happy with myself as I can do something I really love. People keep saying we are not doing too bad and I am able to enjoy it. I said to myself 'no matter what happens it has been a good season' with all the trouble we had and things slowing us down and taking points away from us.
"Then crossing that line. I was already thinking... I was tempted to watch the screens but I didn't as my engineer, the last 10 laps, kept telling me all sorts of things, the gaps and pace.
"Partly I asked for it, to know where I am. But things I have to watch out for which is fine but I think in none of these 19 races he has been so alive in the last 10 laps. I was already thinking 'what is going on?' and I was seeing sometimes on the screen Lewis behind the Renault and also I think it was Alonso and Ferrari behind the Renault. But then I just tried to forget and kept driving and focused on myself.
"As I said the in-lap and just now, the whole podium ceremony and coming here… It kind of sinks in, but it is still not. I don't know what is best to say to be honest. Extremely proud.
"We have one guy in the team who knows all the world champions every year since 1950. Just ask him the year and he gives you the world champion. To be on that list now with drivers like [Ayrton] Senna, Michael [Schumacher], those two guys, I mean I don't know."
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q. (Mathias Brunner – Speedweek) Sebastian, congratulations, at one stage we believe you said over the radio that you have problems with the radio. What was that exactly?
SV: "Yeah, I think I lost the left hand side earplug – I didn't lose it, it didn't fall out but I think it broke down and I only had the right hand side, so I just informed the team that if there's anything they want to tell me, please make sure the pit board is always there and the message is on the pit board as well.
"The radio worked, otherwise I couldn't have chatted with my engineer the last ten laps. He couldn't have given me the message that we won the championship. It was just a little bit on-off, as I said, the left hand side of the ear plug broke down, so I tried to re-connect it and in the end, the last five laps, it was fine again."
Q. (Ian Parkes – The Press Association) Sebastian, many congratulations. If you speak to Jenson, one of his abiding memories of winning the title last year was going to bed rather early, because he was just absolutely exhausted. I know it's early, but how do you intend to celebrate? I wouldn't have thought that early to bed was your philosophy.
JB: "I don't normally go to bed early either."
SV: "Yeah. I don't know yet. I think I want to spend the time with all the people that have been… a lot of people are here, so that's good. But spend the time, first of all, with the team, the guys.
"Everyone was believing in me… I think the atmosphere in the whole team was great. Even though we had a moment when people tried to knock us down and give us a hard time, but nonetheless, we had the ability to focus on what matters, not getting distracted by all sorts of talk and so on which was going on. But to come back to your question, I don't know yet.
"Yeah, I don't think it will be very early, I don't think it's possible because it's already quite late. I think when Jenson won it in Brazil, he had a bit of a better time, or more time, especially in the evening, so when he went to bed at midnight it was probably six o'clock or something, so we will see.
"We have to enjoy this moment, it's our moment. The race started in daylight and I think in a way it will also finish in daylight."
Q. (Oleg Karpov – Klaxon) Congratulations Sebastian, I don't know if you know but Vitaly Petrov held up Fernando for the whole race. Could you now officially confirm that you will be his main sponsor for next year?
SV: "I have to work out… it was a good race for me today.
"You know the way the race went.. I had some people talking to me on the way. For me, most of the time it was head down, just trying to focus on myself but as I said, I saw the screens and obviously I saw that Robert was a long time in P2. I saw the Renault ahead of Lewis and I thought 'wow, Lewis, he knows how to pass people' and McLaren have quite good speed, but on the other hand the Renault F-duct is amazing. They usually have quite a long top gear.
"I think Lewis can tell you a story. Then I also saw a red car and I assumed that it had to be Vitaly (in front). So directly or indirectly, thanks a lot. Hopefully he will be around next year."
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, congratulations. You did the same as Kimi (Räikkönen) in the last race coming in P3 for the last race. Is it more a question of racing skills or luck and do you know what is world champion in Finnish?
SV: "I don't know. I think I knew but I don't remember anymore. I think it's international. If you go to people in Germany and say world champion I think they know what it means. I assume it's the same in Finland or anywhere you go.
"I was actually thinking about Kimi's situation today. Like Kimi or not – some people do, some people don't – but I think it was a little bit of a similar situation. Obviously we were in a stronger position in terms of how many points were missing, probably, but in the end, if you know Kimi, you know that one big advantage – not always, but in that moment especially – is that sometimes – sorry – he doesn't give a shit, he just does his own thing. And that was the target all weekend long.
"Obviously what he achieved three years ago was very special. I think most of us have been there and no-one thought it was possible. He proved us wrong but circumstances were special, same as today.
"Who would have thought that Ferrari starting from third with good pace would finish seventh? That's how it goes sometimes. As I said, just happy to put my name down on the list."
Q. (Michael Schmidt – Auto, Motor und Sport) Sebastian, when you look at this season it seemed that after Spa you changed your approach a little bit, you have been relaxed as you were in the old days, whereas before you had maybe been a little bit tense. What triggered that change in approach?
SV: "I think you – not you personally, but after Spa… again, I apologised to Jenson, I apologised straight away for what happened. I called him in the evening. I think this is how it should be.
"We all respect each other and I'm actually very happy and it makes this moment even more appreciated to sit here with two guys. Even when they drove past, when Lewis drove past at the entrance to the pit lane, on the in-lap, the way he – I think so, at least – the way he raised his hand and he gave me a thumbs up, I felt that he really appreciates and I felt a lot of respect.
"I've known him for a long time – not as long as Jenson – and we have been through a lot in Formula Three. He has been kicking my ass pretty badly there. Now to race each other in Formula One is fantastic. He came to me and said congratulations. It's good if you can look into someone's eyes and you feel that they mean it.
"So but to come back to your question, what triggered that, probably… I had the clear target, going into this season, to win the championship and I was very focused, working very hard, harder than before. Maybe mid-season… I don't think I lost the focus but maybe a bit tense, as you said. With the way things went and the races developed, it wasn't always easy but to come back, after what happened in Spa, which I think was a racing incident, I had guys coming from behind, I had the target to win the race.
"Lewis was pulling away, we had a bit more pace than Jenson at that time, we had a problem with the front wing. It was starting to drizzle a bit. He was defending, I wanted to…"
JB: "You don't have to explain yourself again. It's alright."
SV: "I tried to pass. Anyway, lost the car and took him out, took both of us out. So I explained it. And then I got a lot of bad press in particular. It wasn't easy at that time, with a lot of people talking bad things and trying to knock us down, but that's when you realise who your friends are, who belongs to you and who is supporting you.
"In the end the whole paddock is a group full of people and it was important to invest my energy into them, in order to get it back until today. At some point, I accepted the fact that sometimes things don't go your way but in the long term, I think there's something called justice and latest today, at least in my calculation, it turned out to be right.
"But sometimes it goes that way, sometimes it goes the other way."
Q. (Cesare Manucci – Autosprint) Sebastian, you wrote on your balaclava the word 'Monza.' Was it the same one that you used two years ago and do you believe in this kind of karma?
SV: "First of all it was not the same as two years ago because I have that one at home and I haven't washed it. Yeah, actually it wasn't me, to be honest, it was my engineer who wrote that on my balaclava.
"At some point this season, he asked me what word describes something that make you very happy and makes you feel good? And a couple of days later I came back to him and I said 'Monza.' And he asked why and I said that I won my first grand prix there and just everything that happened after that, the race was amazing, after that, being on that podium, seeing the people coming from everywhere, I think it's one of the best podiums you can stand on, seeing the team, Toro Rosso, listening to the Italian anthem in Italy.
"These are moments you will never forget.
"I was surprised when I came in the garage and put my balaclava on and I saw 'Monza.' I think it taught me twice just to enjoy today, once for the reason I said, the race in 2007 and secondly the race this year when we were flat out until the last lap and fighting. I considered it one of the best races this year for us, because it was extremely difficult and we still finished fourth. Thanks a lot, because I was feeling good before the start."
Q. (Miran Alisic – Korpmedia) Sebastian, you have already said that you have had a different year. What is the best thing that you learned from this year? If you had to pick one thing, what was the best thing you learned?
SV: "Well, I think it's partly linked to the emotions I had to go through after situations like Hungary or Spa. Once you enter and you're able to finish in the front and get some good results, everything goes extremely quickly. I think you can ask Lewis in particular, who had a great chance and did a good job straightaway when he came into Formula 1.
"I think it's important to be who you are and not try to be someone else. Many times, in sports, when you ask people what is most important they answer something like 'to be in balance' but it's actually sometimes not that easy to keep your head cool when everyone is panicking around you.
"That's what I said, in the end: there is a certain group of people that… it makes sense to invest your energy because you know that you will get it back. Other people… you know you might make experiences that you don't like, but that's part of life, I think and that's not only in F1 or in sport, I think that's for all of us. We have occasions like that and I think that was one of the main lessons this year, because in the end, I do believe that guys like Jenson, Lewis, Fernando, Mark and others in F1 – I might forget a few now – but those are the best drivers in the world and in what they do and to be one of them is fantastic, it's a great feeling.
"In the end, you just… like enjoy yourself and just being happy to be able to do what you do, reminds you of who you are."
Q. (Heikki Kulta – Turun Sanomat) Sebastian, you are now the youngest world champion. Are you amazed? And Lewis, you lost that record, are you amazed as well?
SV: "Yeah, when it comes to records, after Lewis won the championship, I thought to myself, it will be questionable if there will ever be anyone younger than him. And to be fair, he only missed it by only one point the year before. You can argue but records are there to be broken in a way.
"Some people set quite a good benchmark, but as I said what I thought about Lewis's record or people like Michael who probably owns all the other records. Yeah, it's not the main thing now, I don't know, it's a couple of days if you… I don't know the exact number but it's only between… (167 days) yeah, so you're good with numbers obviously.
"It's half a year. I don't know, I don't think it makes any difference."
LH: "That's the thing; it's a good title to have, so enjoy it. So how long was it for you, two years? In two years time there will probably be someone else to enjoy it."
Q. (Frederic Ferret – L'Equipe) Sebastian, you said you were up and down; did you ever doubt not being world champion this year?
SV: "Difficult question. I kept believing in myself, in the team and I got a lot of positive energy from the people around me, tapping on my shoulder and I could see that they were believing in me as well, so obviously then it's a bit easier. Surely you know, when you cross the line – well, you don't cross in Korea in my position – but when you have things like Korea when you know it's three races to go and obviously what happens you cannot change any more, but you can still change what will happen.
"We were in a good position and then boom, the engine went, so of course that's disappointing but straight back then, I said the positive is the most important. It wasn't impossible, it was very difficult to go in to Brazil's race but on the other hand I think there was a bit of pressure taken away and we could just focus on what we usually do and it was a little bit the same here.
"Lewis had a very strong weekend and he was a bit in the same situation. As I said, sometimes it's important to keep your head cool and we knew what we had to do and that's what we wanted to do, we achieved it and a bit of luck, so that other people didn't finish as high up this race helped us to be in a position where we are now."
Q. (Sudir Chandran – Chequered Flag) You have the changed the way that F1 is viewed around the world, with a lot of young people watching the sport. I can speak about India in particular, but there is a huge amount of people looking on the sport as a career. So is there a message, Sebastian, that you would like to leave for those people to pursue that they believe in and recognise that you achieve it. And secondly, did Red Bull live up to its tag line this year of giving you wings?
SV: "OK, second question first: yes, I think the car this year was phenomenal. In a way it was a masterpiece.
"I think there are areas where we need to work on because in hindsight we had races where we could have finished better. On the other hand, sometimes it was a fine line between being successful and not. For instance, in Silverstone, going into turn one, Lewis tried to get close. It seemed that he touched my rear tyre, I had a puncture. That was not his intention but that's how it goes sometimes and instead of finishing first or second we finished further back.
"I think all in all, it is always a very special thing if you have a car under your belt where you know you can fight the guys at the top and fight for race wins, pole positions etc. So yes, Red Bull gave me wings again. Still gives me wings, tonight, I think.
"And the first question: I think you can answer this one very long, but I think I have been answering long, so try to keep it short. I think the most important thing, looking back and having these pictures in my mind of our common time in F3, other people in karting, when I started. In the end, you just need to find something you enjoy. If it's motor sport it's motor sport, if it's football it's football.
"If you find something where your head can actually switch off and you just enjoy yourself no matter what you do, I think that's the key. You know mentioning the level before driving in F1, I think in the end the last bit probably comes with heart and passion and just fun, so just enjoy."
Q. (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) Sebastian – I'm learning – I would like to hear your comment about this. Many people did not understand what happened at Interlagos when your team didn't ask you to let Webber overtake. He would be one point behind Alonso and he came here eight points. That way you and the team would not be world champion.
SV: Yes, so I think we did the right thing. You know it's always easy after things have happened to say OK, you did right, you did wrong.
"Obviously Ferrari has been getting a lot of criticism after what happened in Germany. It's sometimes close but in the end you need every single point. Before Brazil it looked worse than the start of this race and now it looks fantastic.
"I think it's a typical example of you never know, and just maybe a little similar to what happened in 2007. In a way, that's the good thing, that some things are out of our hands, out of our control and just happen the way they are supposed to be.
"Some people call it destiny, some people are a little bit more looking for explanations but that's the way it goes."