"From the outside, I'm not sure if it seemed that much was happening in the race," Sebastian Vettel told reporters after winning the European Grand Prix on Sunday. "But I enjoy it so much when it's between you and the car on every single lap."
Vettel's sixth win of the season seemed nearly effortless, but in reality Vettel had to work hard to maintain his lead over the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. Vettel drove a faultless race and has now led all but one lap in the last two Valencia events.
While the on-track product certainly left something to be desired in Valencia, at least the record book was getting a workout. En route to his second career hat trick (pole, win and fastest lap), Vettel notched his 16th and final win before turning 24 years old, seven more than any other driver in F1 history.
Modern times have provided drivers with an opportunity at an F1 career at a younger age than in past decades, and Vettel is certainly taking advantage. No driver in history had reached double-digit victories before turning 24 until Vettel, and his pace is over double that of the man third on the list, Alonso.
Even when Vettel isn't winning lately, he's been putting up strong results. His streak of 10 podiums is already good for third-most all time, but he'll need to double that in order to eclipse Michael Schumacher's run of 19 straight in 2001-02.
Vettel has a 77-point lead in the driver standings and a firm hold on a second F1 title before the season even hits halfway. Indeed, any other driver in the sport could win three straight races without Vettel recording a single point and he'd still hold the lead. He's also led over 81 percent of the laps run this season, on pace to shatter the season F1 mark (Vettel also eclipsed 1,000 career laps led in Valencia).
Vettel's situation is nearly identical to that of Jenson Button's from 2009; before the halfway mark, both had nearly double the points of the next-closest driver. Button didn't win a race in the second half of the year, but he was still good enough to clinch the title before the season finale.
Vettel's victory overshadowed some great drives elsewhere in the field. Alonso displayed Ferrari's speed with a second-place result, while Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari sliced through the field from an 18th-place starting position to finish in the points. He's finished eighth in consecutive races, his two best finishes in his F1 career.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Schumacher may have reached the low point of his time with Mercedes. After leaving the pits early, Schumacher made contact with Vitaly Petrov, resulting in a broken front wing. He never recovered, finishing 17th, the worst non-retirement finish in his F1 career.
His two worst non-retirement results have come in Valencia, as he checked in 15th there last year.
The race itself played out extremely processional, but was notable if only for one reason: all 24 drivers crossed the line, the most ever in an F1 event. It tops the previous mark set earlier this year of 23 in China.
It's now on to Silverstone, a track that features a new pit lane and paddock area for this year. F1 fans will also be witnessing the start from a different location on the track. The new start/finish line will be situated between the Club and Abbey turns, rather than between Woodcote and Copse.