Sebastian Vettel says he struggles to comprehend how he’s won four world championships against the strong field Formula One has today.
Vettel singled out Fernando Alonso for praise, the Ferrari driver having finished runner-up to him in two of the last three seasons and is currently second again.
“I was watching Formula One when Fernando started to win races and now I’m racing Fernando,” said Vettel yesterday. “He’s been my toughest opponent for the last couple of years.”
“I think he’s extremely talented, very gifted behind the wheel, for sure. He’s Spanish, he’s very passionate, one way and the other.
“To race people like him, race people like Lewis [Hamilton] who I think has an amazing level of natural talent, to race people like Mark [Webber] who I rate the same way, like Nico [Rosberg] who I think is underestimated… a lot of guys, you know: Kimi [Raikkonen], Jenson [Button]- to win four titles, I don’t know, it’s just a big number you know? Four titles.”
Vettel has became the fourth driver in F1 history to claim the crown, putting him in a very select group of drivers. “To join people like that: Michael [Schumacher], [Juean Manuel] Fangio, [Alain] Prost is very difficult to put into perspective,” he said.
“I’m way too young to understand what it means. I might be sixty one day, maybe then I will understand but nobody cares any more. I care, it’s difficult to realise something that nobody can take away from you, basically.”
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.