Sebastian Vettel has joined the league of legends in Formula One's hall of fame after becoming the sport's youngest triple world champion.
Vettel's sporting life may have all the hallmarks of a Hollywood blockbuster, but if the 25-year-old German had his way, he would prefer to star in a Monty Python sketch or an episode of the cult comic series Little Britain.
Though he takes life in the spotlight in his stride, often with an amused grin, he has never allowed it to go to his head. His family, his friends and his fun are still more important than his fame.
Vettel, the son of a carpenter, joined an elite of legends in Formula One's hall of fame on Sunday when he became the sport's youngest triple world champion, but after five years on the roller-coaster of glory he remains largely unchanged.
In steering his Red Bull car to three back-to-back world championships, a feat fulfilled in his 101st Grand Prix, he confirmed his status as motor racing's ultimate record-breaker.
Making his debut in 2007, breaking records as a 19-year-old wunderkind and known as much for his love of British humour and relaxed nature, he was still able to stroll around the paddock without being mobbed.
The boy from Heppenheim, who has two older sisters and one younger brother, was that rare breed – a German who understood English jokes, laughed at John Cleese and old Monty Python sketches and taped episodes of Little Britain, his favourite show.
His recorded collection at his Swiss home is often raided in rare off-duty moments.
But he also loves motor racing and understands its demands, glamour and history, characteristics of his outlook that have remained with him these last two years of mounting success and glory.
For Vettel, much as he loves his speed, his machines and his fun, the huge salary, lavish lifestyle and public spotlight are not big motivators. He races rather for the thrill and love of the experience.
In his words, it is all about "passion".
And it is the same passion that controls him now as that which has seen him revel in his racing throughout his life since first gaining a taste for speed and thrills.Born in the decidedly ordinary German town of Heppenheim, on July 3 1987, Vettel is the youngest triple champion.
He joins the legendary Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio and Vettel's fellow-German Michael Schumacher in winning three championships in a row.
Vettel has done it all and is the youngest achiever of many Formula One landmarks: youngest to take part, to race, to score points, to win and to triumph as champion ... And so on.
His level of success has been extraordinary. In becoming a true triple champion, it should be measured by noting that it is a feat that eluded many great racers of the past including Australian Jack Brabham, Briton Jackie Stewart, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna.
"It is great to enjoy all of this, the statistics and the records, but it is not what it is all about in the end," he said earlier this year. "It is about the feeling that you have.
"Last year, we had a fantastic season. You don't have a year like that very often, not at all. Even if you look at what Michael [Schumacher] had, we did something very special.
"But at the end, it is the same as every other job. You need to love it to succeed. You have to feel you are doing the right thing don't you?"
Vettel freely admits he is still full of admiration for the man who was his inspiration as a child – Schumacher, the great champion who became his mentor and who retired on Sunday.
"When I grew up, he was a hero for everyone in Germany. He was the one for us all ... I remember once, there were 120 kids and we were all trying to qualify for a kart race organised by Michael. The final 34 got to compete in the race and Michael waved the chequered flag – it was a big deal for all of us! To be part of that was a dream for me and I was lucky and very happy. I got there and I finished seventh – and I got a trophy."
He met Schumacher, too, and the pair have remained great friends, Schumacher helping guide his path in F1 when needed and giving him support as he rose to the top.
"Michael has the passion – he doesn't do this just for the money," said Vettel. "That's what I mean about this sport. It takes you over!" – AFP