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Vettel hopes second title isn't career high


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 One title celebrations are proving almost as testing as the season.

And the series' youngest-ever double champion would not have it any other way.

In fact, after achieving so much so young, the Red Bull driver is piling the pressure on himself to maintain - and exceed - his success.

"Being 24," the German reflected on Saturday, "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 think that would be quite sad. I hope if even if I one day retire from Formula One that I do 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.

The successful title defence culminated in Brazil last month by capturing a 15th pole position of the season - breaking Nigel Mansell's near 20-year record - before winning an 11th race of 2011.

Vettel never started lower than third on the grid, was on the front row in all but one race and finished on the podium in every grand prix 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 teammate Mark Webber in driving their Red Bulls through the icy English streets.

"It's only a few weeks before Christmas yet people decided to come here rather than do their shopping," Vettel said hours after flying in from the FIA awards ceremony night in Gurgaon, near Delhi.

So, time now for Vettel to relax? Not a chance.

"We need to push, we can't lean back and think we have a good base and think we will be fine next year," Vettel said, his grin disguising a ruthless streak. "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 One, very quickly you would start to go backwards."

Vettel has the statistics at his disposal to hit back at any suggestion his dominance could be damaging for F1.

"It has been much closer than maybe the scoreboard indicated this season," he said. "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 ahead of the season-opener the following month in Melbourne, Red Bull will be without the aerodynamic advantages from their pioneering exhaust-blown diffusers, which are now banned.

"They've taken those toys back... which is a shame," Vettel said. "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.

"It's the first time we have had both Seb and Mark running together," Horner said. "Hopefully they will behave."

Speaking minutes earlier, the 35-year-old Webber also hinted at his struggle to compete internally with Vettel, having finished third in the championship, 134 points behind his teammate.

"I am very hungry to start the season well next year and get the momentum going a little bit," the Australian said. "Obviously it was a great season for one car this year, the rest of us had to get the scraps from that."

Meanwhile, Webber hinted at potential concerns over F1's return to Bahrain next season. The 2011 race in the Gulf kingdom was supposed to be the season-opener, but was called off amid 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, referencing a blast near the British Embassy in Bahrain's capital Manama on Sunday.

 


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