LONDON – Sebastian Vettel cast his mind back to a time when he put pictures of Michael Schumacher on his bedroom wall and played with toy cars in a sandpit – and struggled to come to terms with his achievement on Sunday.
"I am overwhelmed, I don't know what to say but it is the best day of my life so far," the Red Bull driver gasped.
At the age of 26, the German had become only the fourth Formula One driver – after Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, Schumacher and Frenchman Alain Prost – to win four titles and by some way the youngest.
Vettel's victory in the Indian Grand Prix was his sixth in a row, 10th for the season, and his third in three appearances at the Buddh International Circuit. No other driver has ever won there.
To put Vettel's meteoric career into perspective, Prost had to wait until he was 26 before he could celebrate his first grand prix win. Vettel has now won 36.
Schumacher, the previous youngest four-time world champion, had to wait until he was 32 to celebrate the feat. Prost took his fourth at 38, Fangio at 45.
"It's very difficult to understand," said the man who could one day go on to match Schumacher's record seven titles. "Put it this way, I was watching TV, I was watching Formula One when Fernando (Alonso) started to win races (in 2003).
"I had pictures of Michael Schumacher on my wall when I was a teenager," he said.
"I remember 1995, 1996 and 1997 and I looked up to him but it's weird to think that's me now. It is funny because I am still a kid and people ask for my autograph."
Vettel has a detailed knowledge of the sport and spoke in humble tones of those he had now joined – as well as others such as Britain's Stirling Moss who never won a championship but also ranks as one of the greats.
Moss finished runner-up in the championship four times in a row between 1955 and 1958, losing out to Fangio in three of them.
"To win four titles, I don't know, it's just a big number," Vettel told a post race news conference.
"To join people like that (Moss)…Michael, Fangio, Prost. It's very difficult for me to put into perspective. I'm way too young to understand what it means," said the champion.
"I might be 60 one day and maybe then I understand but nobody cares any more. But I care." – Reuters