With triumph at Indian GP,Vettel becomes youngest ever to win four successive titles; moves level with Prost (4) and behind Schumacher (7) and Fangio (5) in all-time list
Before the Indian Grand Prix,only three Formula One drivers had won the world championship four times or more Juan Manuel Fangio (five in the 50s),Alain Prost (four in the 80s and 90s) and Michael Schumacher (seven in the 90s and 2000s). At the Buddh International Circuit on Sunday,another name was added to this exclusive list,Sebastian Vettel,as the German completed a wire-to-wire win from pole to the chequered flag,with the fastest lap to boot to seal his fourth consecutive drivers title.
That the Red Bull driver would win the championship was never in doubt. But knowing how fiercely competitive F1 is,he was expected to be given a run for his money by teammate Mark Webber,who was fourth on the starting grid,and Ferraris Fernando Alonso,his only remaining title competitor (even if only in a manner of speaking). Both had a strategy wherein they had planned to gain track position early on,clock as many laps as they could on their harder tyres while Vettel,running on the softs,would make a pitstop. The best-laid plans,of mice and men…
Alonso hit Webber just after the lights went out and then made contact with Jenson Button. From P8,he was down to 11th. Vettel,sensing his chance,dived into the pits right away; and Alonso,having no choice,followed for a nose job. The remaining 59 laps were,for all practical purposes,59 victory laps. But the German never took his foot off the pedal,even as Webber retired after his car stalled due to a faulty alternator,to make it a hat-trick of wins in front of an adoring crowd in India. Vettel thrilled them with a crowd-pleasing stunt after taking the chequered flag,and moved them when he kneeled before his car and kissed the ground.
How do I feel? Im overwhelmed. One of the best days of my life so far, he said during the presentation ceremony,struggling to give words to his emotions.
In the last nine laps,Vettels team,anxious and extra cautious after the Webber incident in the 40th,told him not to use the drinks bottle,lest it interfered with the mechanics of the car. Its said that an F1 driver loses up to three and a half litres of fluid during the course of a race. Drivers,therefore,keep sipping through the sippers installed in their cockpits to avoid dehydration,and in turn any serious lapses of concentration. Now imagine having to do one-sixth of the race without the bottle,i.e 600ml of body fluid.
Taking no chances
There were huge concerns so we were switching things off,first the KERS and we even stopped him using his drinking bottle because we didnt know what the problem was but it didnt stop him, team principal Christian Horner said.
He drove through all this,and when the champagne flowed on the podium,victory never tasted sweeter.
It is an amazing day. Words fail me for what Seb has done for the last four years, Horner added.
What he has done is this: At 26,he has become the youngest quadruple champion in the history of the sport. Argentine Fangio was a ripe 45 when he won the fourth of his five titles in 1955,Prost was 38 and Schumacher 32. For a suitable parallel,one is tempted to look at other sports. Lionel Messi (at 26,a four-time-on-the-bounce FIFA world player of the year) and Roger Federer (12 Grand Slams at a similar stage) instantly come to mind. Sachin Tendulkar,when he was 26 in 1998-99,also looked destined to achieve what he eventually did.
But could the youngest be the greatest just yet? Where do his four titles,coming as they did at such an early stage,place him in F1s pantheon?
He has age by his side,but the proposed sweeping changes in Formula 1 make it very unpredictable. While Vettel has absolutely destroyed the field in 2011 and 2013,the first and third titles were decided in the last race,with Fernando Alonso taking the fight to him till the very last in an inferior car. If not for the lack of a finishing touch,the fourth quadruple World Champion could have been a Spaniard.
Besides,theres Schumachers all-time record to match and beat. While it looks under threat as Vettels juggernaut rolls on,the total of seven titles is still some distance away. However,if he can sustain these levels,and Red Bull can keep on doing what they have done admirably in the last half-decade,theres no reason why we wont see more of the same Vettel; that same Vettel who bows to only one thing in the world: his car.
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