Sebastian Vettel believes his positive response to mid-season criticism was vital to him becoming Formula One's youngest world champion. The German Red Bull driver found himself in the firing line after the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa when a bungled overtaking manoeuvre on Jenson Button culminated in the 23-year-old spearing into the side of Button's McLaren.
The criticism that followed was ferocious and it seemed at that stage Vettel was still too young and too raw to put together a season good enough to earn him the drivers' title. That incident, however, proved a turning point for both drivers as it was the beginning of the end for Button's title hopes.
For Vettel, however, it forced him to re-evaluate his situation, to seek out those he could trust for support and guidance believing he would be able to repay them at some point. So it proved with Sunday's victory in Abu Dhabi which secured the world title.
"Coming into the year I had a clear goal, to win the championship, and I was very focused on that, working very hard, harder than before," said Vettel. "Maybe mid-season, I don't think I lost focus but maybe I became a bit tense as it wasn't always easy to come back after the way some of the things had gone and the way some races had developed. After what happened in Spa I got a lot of bad press in particular. It wasn't easy at that time, with a lot of people saying bad things and trying to knock us down.
"But that's when you realise who your friends are, who belongs to you and who is supporting you. It was important to invest my energy into them, in order to get it back. At some point I accepted the fact that sometimes things don't go your way, but in the long term there's something called justice. That is what has happened, at least in my calculation, and it has turned out to be right. Sometimes it goes that way."
In finding such a sense of well-being within himself and around him, Vettel was able to focus again on what mattered and that was simply to enjoy his driving. There were still hills to climb, such as in Korea when his engine blew nine laps from home, handing the initiative in the championship to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. However, overall Vettel has emerged a worthy champion, claiming 10 pole positions and five grand prix wins this year, three of them in the final four races.
"It's important to be who you are, not try to be someone else. You just have to enjoy yourself because being happy at being able to do what you do reminds you of who you are."
If there is a piece of advice Vettel could pass on to anyone, it would be "to find something you enjoy". "It doesn't matter if it's motor sport or football, if you find something where your head can switch off and you enjoy yourself no matter what you do, that's the key. You also need heart and passion, but the main thing is to have fun and just enjoy."