Vettel stays grounded as fourth title on the trot beckons
Sebastian Vettel is refusing to let outside influences distract him from the prospect of winning a fourth consecutive Formula One world title.
With a 46-point lead over his nearest rival in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso going into tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix, Vettel is sitting pretty when it comes to cementing his place in F1 history.
Alonso, along with Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen who are 58 and 63 points adrift respectively, desperately requires Vettel to slip up in some way or suffer some sort of mechanical failure.
The 26-year-old German showed no sign of relinquishing his vice-like grip on his championship lead after the opening practice sessions around one of F1's most revered of venues, Monza.
Vettel clocked a lap of 1min 24.453secs, finishing comfortably ahead of the field, spearheaded by Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber who was over six tenths of a second adrift.
Vettel (right), however, knows he cannot afford to get carried away with how the title fight is shaping up.
"Our focus should be on every single race and not be distracted by what is going on around us," said Vettel.
"We had years where it proved very good to just look after ourselves when we were in comfortable positions.
"There is a great temptation of losing focus by only focusing on the things that are not relevant."
Vettel knows that while the title is within reach, he has to stay grounded.
"I am trying not to look at the difference in the points. I am trying not to get distracted," added Vettel.
"We have worked very hard to be in this position, one I would not want to change with anyone. But there are a lot of races to go, a lot of points to score.
"You don't have to be a genius to work out there are more points to score (200) than we currently have (197). So that is the approach. Anything else would be wrong."
As for his advantage at the end of practice, Vettel downplayed the significance, understandably so given how Friday times are often deceiving.
"If you look at it too much it can also be a distraction," said Vettel. "It will be a close qualifying with many cars up there. It is a shortish lap and there are not too many corners, and not that much you can do wrong."
Hamilton, on a run of four consecutive pole positions, with Vettel joining him on the front row at the last three, believes there is more Mercedes can do to propel him forward.
Quickest in first practice on the hard compound tyre, Hamilton was only sixth fastest on the medium Pirelli rubber. But Mercedes and Hamilton have made a habit recently of coming good on Saturday after suggesting on Friday they are off the pace.
"Right now, it doesn't look massively strong for qualifying, but hopefully we can improve the pace," said Hamilton.
"We're not as fast as the Red Bulls, but we are still confident because the car generally feels good."
Lotus pair Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were third and fourth.
Alonso was fifth on the timesheet ahead of Hamilton, with Jenson Button ninth in his McLaren. James Calado was also given his first official F1 outing after running in first practice as Force India's reserve, finishing a commend-able four tenths down on Di Resta.
Italian Grand Prix,
Live, tomorrow, BBC 1/Sky Sports F1/ Setanta Ireland, 1.0