Sebastian Vettel has revealed his hurt at being repeatedly booed by race fans this season but was delighted to give the “right answer on the track” by clinching his fourth world title with victory in Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix.
Vettel has faced hostile podium receptions in Canada, Italy and Singapore among other venues this season, a trend that is presumed to be the legacy of his controversial decision to defy team orders and pass Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber for the win at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.
Happily for the German there were no such ugly scenes at the Buddh International Circuit after he produced a consummate drive to win at the track for the third year in a row.
It was also Vettel’s sixth win in succession this season, and 10th overall, but more pertinently it was a result that saw him become the youngest ever four-time world champion, joining Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio as the only men to reach that milestone.
“It was for sure not an easy season, even though people from the outside got the idea that we had it in our hands for quite a while,” said Vettel.
“I think it was a difficult one, all in all - very difficult for me, personally.
“To receive boos even though you haven’t done anything wrong, but to overcome that and to give the right answer on the track and finally get that acceptance I think we’re all looking for as racing drivers, it makes me very proud.”
At the age of just 26, Vettel is six years younger than Schumacher was when he became a four-time champion in 2001, and will fancy his chances of eclipsing his compatriot’s outright record of seven world titles in the years to come.
“To join people like that - Michael, Fangio, Prost - is very difficult to put into perspective. I’m way too young to understand what it means,” Vettel added.
“I might be 60 one day, maybe then I will understand but nobody will care anymore.”
Vettel’s win also wrapped up the constructors’ title for Red Bull and team principal Christian Horner led the praise for Vettel’s achievement over the team radio, telling his charge: “You’ve done it in style. You join the greats - well done.”
“I’m overwhelmed. I don’t know what to say. It’s been one of best days of my life so far,” Vettel claimed.
“It was phenomenal all season, to be honest, so I couldn’t ask for more.”
Vettel took the chequered flag 30 seconds clear of the chasing pack, moving him into an unassailable 115-point lead in the standings with three races to spare.
Webber had been on target to make it a Red Bull one-two but an alternator problem forced him to retire at two-thirds distance, paving the way for Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean of Lotus to complete the podium.
There was a sting in the tail on Vettel’s big day, however, when he was summoned before the stewards to explain his actions after the race.
Deciding to celebrate his title with the fans, Vettel turned doughnuts on the pit straight before dropping to his knees in mock-prayer to the all-conquering Red Bull RB9.
Although a great spectacle for the audience, the FIA took a dim view and reprimanded Vettel and gave Red Bull a £21,300 fine.