Greater Noida: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel on Sunday became only the fourth driver in the history of Formula One to win four world titles or more but the German said the realisation of joining the elite list of F1 legends is yet to sink in.
Starting from the pole, Vettel drove an impeccable race to conquer the Indian Grand Prix for the third consecutive time at the Buddh International Circuit here. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg finished second ahead of Lotus driver Romain Grosjean.
By virtue of this win, Vettel has already sealed the world championship title with three more races to go. The German driver has now joined countrymate Michael Schumacher (7 titles), Brazilian Juan Manuel Fangio (5 titles) and Frenchman Allan Prost (4 titles) who have four or more world titles to their credit.
"It is very difficult to understand. I was watching F1 on TV when Fernando (Alonso) started racing. Now he is my strongest opponent. Four titles are only a number for me. Now my goal is to win five titles," Vettel said at the post-race press conference.
"Michael Schumacher came and he had a dominant car. It is incredible that he managed to score more championships than all the true legends. So to finish with people like them is amazing. But I am way too young to understand. Probably, when I will be 60 may be I will realise. It is difficult to realise something than no one can take away from you," an emotional Vettel said.
After winning the race, Vettel bowed in front of his car on the tarmac of the Buddh International Circuit and the Red Bull driver said the gesture was an appreciation for his car and teammates.
"It was just an appreciation for the car, for the team. It was pretty special. We work throughout the year to make that car faster. It's team effort at the end of the day. The work the mechanics put in the car it was just an appreciation for that," he said.
"I am not selfish. I am not picking all the credit myself. I am thankful for the effort the whole team is doing. It's 100 per cent commitment. They love their job, they love the fact that they are working on Formula One cars. So it was just a gesture of saying thank you," Vettel said.
An emotional Vettel was also quick to thank all who have contributed to his success.
"I am really happy now to have this fourth title. I am thankful and I love my job and to drive. I can't thank everybody enough for what they have done for me. I love my fans as well. They support me so much. I am speechless. I cannot describe my emotion," he said.
"I feel great. I already miss my car. I do not know what to say. This is one of the best days in my life. This time I have spent with the team is fantastic. It is just unbelievable.
"I also have to thank my parents because they never put pressure on me. They spent a lot of time with me, sacrificed their life. Growing up we had a good time as a family together," Vettel said.
"There are so many people I want to thank for being what I am today. So many who love motorsport and have shared it with me. Peter Flueckiger in F3 for instance. My engineer from Team ASN at the time, my girlfriend Hanna," he added.
The Indian Grand Prix might be facing an uncertain future after it had been scrapped from the 2014 calendar, but for Vettel the country will always hold a special place for him.
"It was obviously special because it happened in a place like India. I would actually love to take time out and travel around India because this country has the possibility to teach you so much. Majority of people here have a very difficult life but they are very happy. It was a difficult emotion to cross the line. It is a special place to win," he said.
Vettel's liking for India can be gauged when he said that he plans to explore the country after retiring young from the sport.
With the world title already settled, second place finisher Rosberg vowed to give Vettel a tough fight in the next Formula One season.
"He (Vettel) did a fantastic job. Sebastian has been the guy to beat for four years. Our target was to beat them (Red Bull) this year but it didn't work out. So hopefully we will be able to compete with them next year."
Lotus' Grosjean had a sensational race as he worked his way to third position after starting 17 on the grid.
Asked if the Switzerland-born French driver expected a podium finish, he replied: "I am very happy. Obviously after starting 17th on the grid it was always very difficult. I never imagined we could finish on the podium.
"We did not have a very good start. I lost quite some time in the middle of the race. But it was great to finish on the podium in the end."