Vettel eyes F1 title grab on Sunday

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IOL mot oct23 Vettel AFP Vettel title grab is almost a given this weekend.

Sebastien Vettel has pledged to keep pushing until the very end as he aims to secure an amazing fourth straight drivers' and constructors' title double at this week's Indian Grand Prix.

The 26-year-old Red Bull ace, who enjoys a 90-point lead over his nearest challenger Fernando Alonso, needs only to finish among the top five on Sunday to wrap up the drivers' championship.

While Vettel would become the youngest man to win four in a row - with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher the only others to do it - the constructors' title is also significant.

With a whopping 148-point lead, Red Bull only have to maintain a 129-point gap to seal their fourth consecutive team championship, the best run since Ferrari dominated the last decade.

Vettel is on the best run of his career after winning the last five grands prix, and he also triumphed at the Buddh International Circuit on New Delhi's outskirts in 2011 and 2012.

But despite his unstoppable form, the young German is not taking anything for granted.

“It looks very good at this stage, but it's not over before it's over,” said Vettel. “We obviously have a very, very good gap but we will still keep pushing.”

CAN HE DO NINE IN A ROW?

History will also spur the determined Vettel as victories in India, Abu Dhabi, America and the year's finale in Brazil would make him the first man to win nine straight races in a season.

He would also equal Schumacher's 2004 record of 13 victories in one year. Italy's Alberto Ascari won nine straight for Ferrari, but his feat was spread over two seasons in 1952 and 1953.

Vettel's absolute dominance may have earned him unsporting boos and taken the suspense out of F1 this season, but his coronation could be good news for India.

With the Indian Grand Prix missing from next season's schedule, a world title win could bring extra crowds and excitement and help ensure it returns in 2015.

“It is great news for India that the coronation of Vettel will take place here,” said India's first F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan. “It is one more reason for fans to come to the circuit.”

While Vettel's winning streak owes much to his Red Bull car, he has showed tenacity and guile - and when needed, blistering pace - to maintain his iron grip on the title.

The only way Vettel can be denied is if he fails to win a point in the remaining four races - provided Ferrari's Alonso wins at least three of them and finishes second in the other.

NO ILLUSIONS

However, the Spaniard, a two-time champion in 2005 and 2006 when driving a Renault, is under no illusion that he can engineer a dramatic turnaround.

Asked after the last race, in Japan, if the fight was still on, Alonso said: “I don't think so. We will keep doing the best possible, but it's a matter of time.”

Lewis Hamilton, fourth in the standings behind Kimi Raikkonen and out of the reckoning this season, said he was willing to bet that Vettel would win the last four races.

“I am willing to put money on it,” said Hamilton. “Why not? He's just walking it.”

Vettel said he looked forward to racing at the Buddh circuit again, watched by an estimated crowd of around 50 000.

“So far everything has always gone perfectly for us in India,” he said. “There is also a very nice trophy at the end of the race - so it would be great to hold one again this year.

“It is not an easy track, because of a few complicated rhythm-breakers that are in there. So, to drive a perfect lap around the Buddh circuit, you need a good driving instinct.”

Behind Vettel and Red Bull, the battle for number two in the constructors' championship is more competitive with Mercedes 10 points behind second-placed Ferrari, and Lotus a further 23 points back.

SEASON SO FAR

Australian Grand Prix - March 17

Kimi Raikkonen upset the established order to claim a resounding victory for Lotus in the season-opener in Melbourne.

The Finn roared off from seventh on the grid and employed a two-stop strategy to win from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's three-time defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa of Brazil was fourth with Lewis Hamilton, making his Mercedes debut after his high-profile move from McLaren, fifth.

Standings: Raikkonen 25 pts, Alonso 18, Vettel 15

Malaysian Grand Prix - March 24

Vettel incensed stablemate Mark Webber and ignited a team orders row as he ignored Red Bull's strict instructions and pulled off a risky overtaking move to snatch victory.

The German ace went wheel-to-wheel with Webber late in the race, earning a stern rebuke from team principal Christian Horner, before emerging in front and taking his 27th career win to top the early championship standings.

Third-placed Hamilton's first podium for Mercedes was also tainted after team orders reining in his driving partner Nico Rosberg.

Standings: Vettel 40, Raikkonen 31, Webber 26

Chinese Grand Prix - April 14

Alonso stormed back after failing to finish in Malaysia to open his 2013 account ahead of Raikkonen and pole-sitter Hamilton in a race packed with incident.

Starting from third, Alonso crossed the line first after the lead swapped hands several times and both Webber and Rosberg were among the retirements.

Vettel, who had set off from ninth, finished fourth, a whisker behind Hamilton as he maintained his lead in the overall standings.

Standings: Vettel 52, Raikkonen 49, Alonso 42

Bahrain Grand Prix - April 21

Vettel extended his lead in the title race when he claimed an impressive victory for Red Bull in an incident-filled Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 25-year-old's second win in four races and the 28th of his career saw him pass Jackie Stewart into sixth in the all-time Grand Prix winning list.

Starting second, Vettel took the lead on lap three and then controlled the 57-lap race as he came home 9.1 seconds clear of Raikkonen. Frenchman Romain Grosjean finished third.

Standings: Vettel 77, Raikkonen 67, Hamilton 50

Spanish Grand Prix - May 12

Alonso thrilled his massive home crowd with a dominant victory for Ferrari in a tactical race in which management of Pirelli's quick-wearing tyres was essential.

The Spaniard's second win of the season boosted his challenge for a third world title, lifting him to third in the overall standings.

Raikkonen took second in the race with Ferrari's Massa in third, Vettel fourth and Mercedes pole-sitter Rosberg dropping to sixth.

Standings: Vettel 89, Raikkonen 85, Alonso 72

Monaco Grand Prix - May 26

Rosberg became the first son of a Monaco Grand Prix winner to triumph on the principality's famous streets when he drove his Mercedes to an accomplished victory.

In a chaotic race littered with accidents, a red flag and two safety car interventions, the 27-year-old German, son of 1983 winner Keke Rosberg, produced an impeccable race to claim the second victory of his career.

He came home ahead of the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber, with Hamilton fourth.

Standings: Vettel 107, Raikkonen 86, Alonso 78

Canadian Grand Prix - June 9

Vettel claimed the 29th victory of his career with his and Red Bull's first win at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Starting from his third consecutive pole at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, the defending triple world champion came home unchallenged after a serene display of dominant front-running.

Alonso fought from sixth on the grid to take second, with Hamilton third.

Standings: Vettel 132, Alonso 96, Raikkonen 88

British Grand Prix - June 30

Rosberg won, but his Mercedes team-mate Hamilton took as many plaudits when he fought back from a tyre explosion to finish fourth in a thrilling recovery at Silverstone.

In a race marred by four tyre failures, Hamilton lost the lead before battling back from last place. Rosberg survived huge late pressure from Red Bull's retirement-bound Webber to claim his second win of the season. Alonso took third.

Standings: Vettel 132, Alonso 111, Raikkonen 98

German Grand Prix - July 6

Vettel won for the first time on home soil to extend his lead in the world championship to 34 points over Alonso.

Starting from second, Vettel was pushed all the way before easing his Red Bull home ahead of Raikkonen and the Finn's Lotus team-mate, Grosjean. It was the German's fourth win of the season and the 30th of his career.

Standings: Vettel 157, Alonso 123, Raikkonen 116

Hungarian Grand Prix - July 28

Hamilton ended weeks of frustration when he finally won his first race for Mercedes in textbook fashion.

The Briton led from pole to the chequered flag, apart from three short spells for pit-stops, as he secured his fourth victory at the Hungaroring in sweltering conditions.

More than 10 seconds behind in second came Raikkonen, with Vettel third.

Standings: Vettel 172, Raikkonen 134, Alonso 133

Belgian Grand Prix - August 25

Vettel delivered a crushing blow to his title rivals when he increased his lead in the drivers' championship with a consummate triumph for Red Bull.

The 26-year-old German took the lead from pole-sitter Hamilton on the opening lap and then pulled clear to claim his fifth win of the year and the 31st of his career.

The defending triple world champion came home a comfortable 17 seconds ahead of second-placed Alonso of Ferrari with Hamilton third for Mercedes.

Standings: Vettel 197, Alonso 151, Hamilton 139

Italian Grand Prix - September 8

Vettel earned boos of frustration from the Italian crowd as he extended his world championship lead to more than 50 points over Ferrari's Alonso with his third win in four races.

The German survived a torrid start and gearbox problems to finish five seconds clear of the chasing Alonso and Webber, while Massa took fourth.

Britain's Hamilton started 12th, lost the use of his team radio and suffered a slow puncture, as he fought back twice to finish ninth, calling the race “a nightmare”.

Standings: Vettel 222, Alonso 169, Hamilton 141

Singapore Grand Prix - September 22

Vettel took a huge step towards the world title with a superlative victory that left his rivals fighting for scraps but again prompted boos from the crowd.

The German, starting from pole, fought off Nico Rosberg on the first bend and despite a safety car intervention was untouchable as he took his third win in a row and a hat-trick of wins in Singapore.

Alonso finished second to maintain his title hopes.

Standings: Vettel 247, Alonso 187, Hamilton 151

Korean Grand Prix - October 6

Vettel stood on the brink of his fourth straight world title after he powered away from pole position to win the Korean Grand Prix.

Not even two appearances by the safety car, or the worrying sight of his team-mate Mark Webber climbing out of his burning Red Bull, was enough to stop Vettel's fourth win in a row.

He took the chequered flag four seconds ahead of Lotus pair Raikkonen and Grosjean. The victory meant Vettel will seal the title if he wins in Japan and Alonso finishes outside the top eight.

Standings: Vettel 272, Alonso 195, Raikkonen 167

Japanese Grand Prix - October 13

Vettel came from behind to win a thrilling race at Suzuka but missed out on sealing a fourth successive world title after Alonso kept the championship alive by finishing fourth.

Vettel drove a superb race to reel in his Red Bull team-mate Webber and Lotus's Grosjean, who finished second and third, for his fifth straight victory.

Ferrari's Alonso remained 90 points behind Vettel with 100 points available from the last four races, but the German will win the title if he finishes among the top five in India.

Standings: Vettel 297, Alonso 207, Raikkonen 177

-AFP


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