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Vettel: We’ll Keep Pushing Until The Job Is Done

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 14 2013

Sebastian Vettel is bulling his way toward a fourth straight F1 World Driving Championship. (File photos courtesy of the Circuit of the Americas)

Sebastian Vettel continued his methodical march to a fourth consecutive Formula One World Driving Championship with a victory in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

But not even Vettel’s career-best fifth consecutive victory was enough to clinch the 2013 title, as Fernando Alonso’s fourth-place finish mathematically was enough to extend the inevitable to at least the Airtel Indian Grand Prix on Oct. 27.

“I think obviously we have a very, very good (point) gap but we still keep pushing,” Vettel said after his ninth win in 15 races aboard his Red Bull Racing/Renault. “I think we’ve proven in the last couple of years that we never give up. I think we’ve won one or two championships because of that. Obviously, this year it looks very good at this stage, but it’s not over before it’s over.”

Vettel, who began the weekend with a 77-point margin over two-time world champion Alonso of Scuderia Ferrari, exited the Suzuka Circuit with a 90-point advantage and a 120-point pad over former world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus/Renault with four races remaining.

Vettel led a 1-2 sweep for RBR, as teammate and pole-sitter Mark Webber of Australia used a late-race pass of Lotus/Renault’s Romain Grosjean in Turn 1 to finish second albeit seven seconds short of the first win of his final F1 season. Grosjean _who will replace Raikkonen as Lotus’ No. 1 driver when the Finn returns to Ferrari next season – placed third.

Vettel is poised to become only the third driver in F1 history to win four consecutive titles, joining Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina and Michael Schumacher, Seb’s fellow-German and boyhood hero.

“You know, I love racing,” said Vettel, who won for the fourth time at Suzuka. “It’s incredible what’s happened over the last couple of years but nothing has changed in the way that I still love racing. I love the challenge, I’m still nervous when I wake up on Sunday, still excited when I walk on the grid and tense, looking forward to the race. Enjoying – not the numbers – but enjoying the fact that I’m racing and a great crowd today, a fantastic day.

“I think it would be a shame if you were too tense and if you tried to force things too much. I think you have to allow yourself to enjoy it because this is not normal, it doesn’t happen to everyone. I’m very fortunate that I’m one of these 22/24 guys in Formula One.”

Grosjean blasted past Webber and Vettel in Row 1 at the start from his fourth spot on the grid. “When I dropped the clutch I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, that’s a good one. Come on, come on go for it!’^” the Frenchman said. “Amazing. Then when you’re leading it makes the thing easier on the first stint. We were very quick on the option (Pirelli tires). The car was using less the tires and I could open the gap. Unfortunately, it was less good on prime (harder compound) than option for some reason, rather than (Saturday) when it was the opposite, so the pace dropped a little bit and Seb was really too quick for us. Never mind, we were the only car to be able to follow them (Red Bull teammates). We did not even think about racing them before the race and the strategy says that our target was Lewis (Hamilton).”

A former world champion, Hamilton also made a strong start but contact from Vettel’s front wing punctured the right rear title of Hamilton’s Mercedes. Hamilton subsequently limped around the circuit and back to the pits on shredded rubber. Damage to car’s tub and brakes led to the Englishman’s retirement nine laps into the 53-lap/307.471-kilometer event.

Grosjean, Webber and Vettel were able to work their advantage to 27 seconds over the field, allowing each to attack with different pit strategies. Grosjean and Vettel opted to run a two-stop race while Webber’s team switched on-the-fly to a three-stop program.

“I think we tried to race Romain at the start and then in the end we switched to the three,” said Webber, who set the race’s fastest lap in 1-minute, 34.587-seconds. “So I was the meat in the sandwich, trying to beat Romain on a two and then all of a sudden we decided to do a three. I was a little bit surprised. I asked was it the right thing to do because I felt we could get to the lap we were looking to get to.

“Of course Seb was two or three laps longer, four laps maybe. But in terms of the target lap that we looked to get for the two-stop I thought was achievable. In the end Seb did a good race, the strategy worked out perfect and yeah, the three was…not absolutely ridiculous but it’s a bit more high-risk we know, and you have to clear people, obviously. So, piggy in the middle, trying to do both.”

Lap 41 proved pivotal when Vettel dove inside Grosjean at Turn 1 and into second. When Webber pitted for the third time for Pirelli’s optional tire one lap later, Vettel was on the way to his 35th career victory.

“I tried to control the gaps,” Vettel said. “Obviously, we started already to go longer than Romain and Mark in the first stint, so we took into account that we lap a second a lap slower for two or three laps compared to them in order to get the range in the next stint and then tried to extend that to really put them under pressure towards the end. That was, let’s say, the game plan. We made it…we didn’t lose the patience early-on. Tried obviously to make the stints as long as possible to help us at the end of the race.”

Alonso, who started eighth, passed Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber/Ferrari heading into Turn 1 to secure fourth. Raikkonen earned fifth when he also passed Hulkenberg.

In the Constructor’s championship, Red Bull pushed its advantage over Scuderia Ferrari to a massive 148 points (445-297), with Mercedes third at 277.

Formula One’s second visit to Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, is a little more than a month away. Reserved seat tickets to the 2013 F1 United States Grand Prix Nov. 15-17, along with general admission passes, are available online at www.circuitoftheamericas.com (under the EVENTS section of the website) or www.ticketmaster.com. For information on personal seat licenses for Formula 1 events and other motorsports and entertainment programming at COTA, call the circuit’s Sales Team at 512.301.6600 and press “1” to be connected to a sales representative.

FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix results with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine, laps completed, time/differential:

1. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull Racing/Renault, 53, 1-hour, 37.410-seconds

2. (2) Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull Racing/Renault, 53, plus 7.1-seconds

3. (8) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus/Renault, 53, plus 9.9-seconds

4. (3) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 53, plus 45.6-seconds

5. (7) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Lotus/Renault, 53, plus 47.3-seconds

6. (11) Niko Hulkenberg, Germany, Sauber/Ferrari, 53, plus 51.6-seconds

7. (12) Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber/Ferrari, 53, plus 1-minute, 11.6-seconds

8. (9) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 53, plus 1-minute, 12.0-seconds

9. (5) Jenson Button, Great Britain, McLaren/Mercedes, 53, plus 1-minute, 20.8-seconds

10. (4) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia/Ferrari, 53, plus 1-minute, 29.2-seconds

11. (14) Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Force India/Mercedes, 53, plus 1-minute, 38.5-seconds

12. (18) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

13. (19) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, plus 1 lap

14. (15) Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India/Mercedes, plus 1 lap

15. (6) Sergio Perez, Mexico, McLaren/Mercedes, plus 1 lap

16. (16) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams/Renault, plus 1 lap

17. (17) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams/Renault, plus 1 lap

18. (20) Charles Pic, France, Caterham/Renault, plus 1 lap

19. (23) Max Chilton, Great Britain, Marussia/Cosworth, plus 1 lap

20. (10) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes, retired, 9 laps

21. (21) Giedo van der Garde, The Netherlands, Catherham/Renault, retired, 0 laps

22. (22) Jules Bianchi, France, Marussia/Cosworth, retired, 0 laps

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 14 2013
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