While Vettel stopped short of describing himself as such, the fact he has become a three-time world champion elevates him to such exalted status, with his performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix epitomising the fact.
Just 15 seconds into an extraordinary, breathtaking conclusion to one of the most compelling seasons in the sport's 63-year history, Vettel found himself facing the wrong way and at the back of the field.
Tagged by Williams' Bruno Senna after a poor start and with damage to the floor of his Red Bull, for a few moments it appeared as if Vettel's championship was over.
But through drizzle, light rain, heavy rain, a broken radio, a pit stop that went wrong, three other stops for tyres and two safety car periods at Interlagos, Vettel finally has his hands on a third title.
Only Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna have previously won three. And, of those, only Schumacher and Fangio won three in a row, but Vettel is the youngest to achieve such an astonishing feat, and he is still only 25.
By the chequered flag of an incident-packed race, Vettel was sixth, with championship rival Fernando Alonso second in his Ferrari behind race winner Jenson Button, to take the crown by three points from the Spaniard.
"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, but we always kept believing and we didn't get angry or frustrated with the situation," Vettel said.
"When you're facing the wrong way at the start, with the damage on the car, losing the radio, the conditions, stopping a lap too early, not having the tyres ready, where do you start?
"When I was told over the radio it was unbelievable. Unfortunately the guys couldn't hear my answer because the radio was broken!"
There were times when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg both led, only for the duo to collide, ensuring Hamilton's final race for McLaren before joining Mercedes next season ended in retirement.
As for Force India's Paul di Resta, it was his smash into a wall on the penultimate lap that brought out the safety car for a second time, the Scot ending his campaign on a low note.