Saturday 24 March 2018

F1: Vettel not taking F1 title for granted

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel

Ian Parkes

SEBASTIAN Vettel is refusing to believe the Formula One world title is his for the taking despite his stunning burst of dominance.

Vettel and Fernando Alonso are currently vying for the distinction of becoming the ninth driver in F1 history to win three championships.

To do so would see either man elevated amongst the greats of the sport and join a roll of honour that includes Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna.

In Vettel's case, to win three in a row is something only Schumacher and Fangio have previously achieved, and on the back of four straight victories there appears no stopping the 24-year-old German.

But despite a 13-point cushion over Alonso heading into an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that Vettel adores, he knows he still faces an almighty battle with the Ferrari star.

"It will be tough, but it has been like that all season long, so I don't expect the situation to ease up," said Vettel.

"We know we still have to go full throttle, and of course it helps to finish the races ahead of him (Alonso). To understand that you don't have to be a genius.

"So for this weekend in Abu Dhabi the same level of concentration and skill is what is needed if we are to stay in front because with three races to go a comfortable lead is an elusive thing.

"Of course, going there as leader in the standings makes the track even more enjoyable where I hope we will sail on the tailwind of our four wins and add a fifth."

Vettel stands on the brink of becoming the first driver to triumph in five successive races for the first time since Schumacher in 2004, the year the 43-year-old clinched his fifth straight title.

Vettel's run has also helped Red Bull open up a 91-point cushion in the constructors' championship over Ferrari and 101 to McLaren.

At the Yas Marina circuit the team can become only the fourth in F1 history to win three successive constructors' titles - Ferrari, McLaren and Williams the others.

With his team clearly in the ascendancy, boss Christian Horner said: "It's already a personal best for Sebastian to have won four races in succession (in one season).

"That is remarkable bearing in mind we turned up in Singapore with Sebastian having won only one race before that.

"So he's hit a purple patch of form at exactly the right time in the championship, and for us it's vital to keep that momentum running.

"We've got ourselves into a great position in the constructors' championship, but in the drivers' championship we can see it is still completely open.

"Thirteen points, which is all that currently splits the drivers, basically equates to a third place in a race.

"With 75 points available from the final three races, it's going to be crucial for us to make sure we have perfect weekends."

For Ferrari, how they would secretly love for Vettel to endure the kind of problem he encountered in Abu Dhabi a year ago.

Never off the front of the grid at the track, from second in 2009, Vettel claimed victory, doing so again a year later from pole, and with it claiming his first title, edging out Alonso by four points.

Last year, however, despite starting from pole again, a first-lap puncture put paid to Vettel's hopes of a third straight win.

Alonso proved in India there is pace on a Sunday to fight the Red Bulls in a race, but not from a position of fifth on the grid as qualifying continues to be Ferrari's Achilles heel.

"We can fight the Red Bulls, but at the moment we still don't have a car capable of winning," said Alonso.

"Again this year we have seen that in the race the situation is much better than in qualifying.

"We will have some updates in Abu Dhabi. Let's hope we can make a step forward because it will be important to start making up the points gap.

"There are 75 up for grabs, which is a lot, so I am still optimistic, even if we are all aware we have to improve our performance, especially on Saturday."

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport