Sebastian Vettel can proclaim himself to be a three-time Formula One world champion despite citing “dirty tricks” from some of his rivals.
Vettel endured a rollercoaster of a Brazilian Grand Prix which began with him facing the wrong way a few seconds after the start after he was tagged by Williams’ Bruno Senna, dropping him to dead last.
But through adverse weather conditions and the mayhem that continued to unfold on the Interlagos circuit, Vettel kept his nerve and cool to claim sixth place.
With closest rival Fernando Alonso finishing runner-up to race-winner Jenson Button, Vettel emerged with a three-point winning margin over the Spaniard to become only the ninth driver to win three titles.
However, as he summed up his season and his achievement, the 25-year-old German remarked “a lot of people tried to play dirty tricks.
“But we did not get distracted by that and kept going our way. All the guys gave a big push right to the end.”
Vettel was pressed for an explanation, but refused to expand, simply adding: “We have to focus on what we have, what is in our hands and not getting excited about what others are doing. What’s the point?
“You can if you want, but it only carries you away, distracts you and you lose focus on achieving your optimum.”
The inference is that Vettel was pointing a finger at Ferrari and the likely destabilisation of his campaign given the questions he faced about a move to the team in 2014, which he vehemently denied.
Instead, Vettel proved himself in what he described was the “toughest race” of his career, one in which his hopes often teetered on a knife edge.
“I never thought it was game over – one, because I kept believing; and two, because I didn’t know where I was for most of the time,” said Vettel.
“I could see on the pit board where I was, but I didn’t know where Fernando was, which was not the main focus for the race.
“With the amount of difficulties I faced, we had our hands full just to keep the car on the track because it was very, very difficult to drive.
“Overall, it’s been a very tough season for us – on track, off track – a season with ups and downs, but we have always remained true to ourselves.”
For Alonso, who has finished on the podium 13 times this year, there was natural disappointment at missing out for a third year – 2007 by a point, 2010 by four points, and now 2012 by three.
But it was not his turn again to be a three-time champion as he said: “I feel very proud of my team, very proud of the season we had.
“Obviously we lost the championship, but we didn’t lose it here in Brazil, but in some races where we were a little unlucky.
“We were hoping for a little miracle, as we were hoping all through the year.
“From the start to the end it was a dream and we had this little present to fight for the championship until the last race.
“We enjoyed the race, we did our job and the dream continued until here, so thank you to the team for a perfect season.”