No rest for F1 champ Vettel
12 December 2011, 13:22
England - From motorsport's glitzy gala in India to a victory parade for 60 000 frozen fans in England within 24 hours, Sebastian Vettel's Formula 1 title celebrations are proving almost as testing as the season.
The Red Bull driver is piling the pressure on himself to maintain and exceed his success.
Vettel said: "Being 24, it would be sad if you said, 'That is it. That has been the highlight of my life. From now on it's only getting worse.' I hope, even if I one day I retire from F1, that I wake up in the morning and my best days are still to come. Otherwise I think it will be quite sad if there is nothing to look forward to in a professional life, but also in your personal life."
For now, Vettel appears to be an unstoppable force. His successful 2011 title defence culminated in Brazil in November with a 15th pole position of the season, breaking Nigel Mansell's near 20-year record, before his 11th win of 2011.
'WE NEED TO PUSH'
Vettel never started lower than third on the grid all season, was on the front row in all but one race, and finished on the podium in every GP but two. Such individual brilliance is why tens of thousands of people wrapped up in thermals near the team's Milton Keynes headquarters to watch Vettel join team mate Mark Webber in driving their Red Bulls through the icy English streets.
So, is it time for Vettel to relax? Not a chance.
Vettel said: "We need to push, we can't lean back and think we have a good base and think we will be fine next year. The guys are searching and trying to find something new and find the edge like we did last year, otherwise I think with the speed of development today in Formula 1, very quickly you would start to go backwards.
"It has been much closer than maybe the scoreboard indicated this season. If you look at the gaps after qualifying or the race... in Japan we had the first four cars in five (seconds). If you look 10 years back it was probably a gap of 40 seconds between first and second.
"It is much more competitive and the gaps in qualifying have sometimes been big, but most of the time have been very small."
When testing starts in February 2012 ahead of the season-opener the following month in Melbourne, Australia, Red Bull will be without the aerodynamic advantages of their pioneering exhaust-blown diffusers, which are now banned.
RED BULL FAVOURITISM
"They've taken those toys back, which is a shame. Next year the cars will be slightly different - not a revolution, but we need to adapt. It is easier to make a fast car reliable than a reliable car fast."
Could the biggest issue within the Red Bull camp be a revival of the tensions that have led to Webber complaining of favouritism? Even team principal Christian Horner alluded to it before the parade drive through Milton Keynes.
Horner said: "It's the first time we have had both Seb and Mark running together. I hope they behave."
Speaking minutes earlier, Webber also hinted at his struggle to compete internally with Vettel, having finished third in the championship, 134 points behind his team mate. "I'm very hungry to start the 2012 season well and get the momentum going a little bit. Obviously it was a great season for one car through 2011 - the rest of us had to get the scraps from that."
Meanwhile, Webber hinted at potential concerns over F1's return to Bahrain in 2012. The 2011 race in the Gulf kingdom was supposed to be the season-opener but was called off because of violent anti-government protests.
"As with last time, it's hard to get a feel for it because you constantly get mixed messages, which is difficult for us to understand," Webber said, referring to a blast near the British Embassy in Bahrain's capital, Manama.