Vettel Settles It: Wins India And Fourth F1 Championship
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Clearly the greatest Formula One driver of his generation, Sebastian Vettel added to his credentials as an all-timer when he clinched his fourth consecutive World Driving Championship with a victory in Sunday’s Airtel Indian Grand Prix.
Vettel, of Red Bull Racing/Renault, scored his career-best sixth win in a row and 10th of the season in 1-hour, 33.12.187-seconds _ a comfortable 29.8-seconds ahead of runnerup Nico Rosberg of Mercedes. Roman Grosjean of Lotus/Renault finished third in the 60-lapper, 39.8-seconds back after starting 17th.
Vettel, 26, is only the third driver in F1 history to win four consecutive titles, joining legendary Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina and Michael Schumacher, Seb’s fellow-German and boyhood hero.
Vettel celebrated his 36th career win by performing NASCAR-style donuts after taking the checkered flag. He then exited his car and climbed through an opening in the fence along the frontstretch to meet with team principal Christian Horner and designer Adrian Newey in Parc Ferme _ albeit without his car in violation of FIA protocol.
“I miss my car,” Vettel joked during a podium interview conducted by former F1 regular David Coulthard. “I’m overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say. One of the best days of my life so far. Always try to think back where you started and F1 is so far away. To race against these drivers…there’s so many people I have to thank from go-karting up to now that have been teaching me a lot. I’ve always tried to listen and learn.
“The spirit of the team is fantastic and the numbers we’ve done in the last four years are unbelievable. I don’t feel old; I’m getting older but to achieve that in such a short time…maybe I’m a little bit better in understanding what we’ve done.”
Vettel added that this season was personally difficult, as his on-track domination and some X-rated post-race comments led to an increasing amount of booing from fans. None of that rancor was evident during Sunday’s podium celebration, during which Rosberg and Grosjean hoisted Vettel onto their shoulders for a photo opportunity.
Vettel, who needed to finish fifth or better to eliminate two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Scuderia Ferrari, ended the day with an insurmountable 115-point lead over the Spaniard. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus/Renault is third in the standings, 139 points behind Vettel with three races remaining.
After qualifying on-pole Saturday, Vettel was asked to put some perspective on his meteoric rise in open-wheel racing’s Flying Circus.
“I think in the end there’s a little bit of influence on the guy you become but also you have your preference in life,” Vettel said. “You have a certain thing called taste so you do what in the end you’d like. Sometimes some people lead you to one thing or another but in the end you make the decision.
“On track, obviously, if you look at my career, I think there’s a lot of people that I had behind me supporting me from an early age. But to be fair, when I started, all this was not even… we didn’t even really dream about it. I had a hobby and I started together with my father to go racing with the whole family as well. Obviously, it became a little bit more serious, a little bit faster, a little bit more serious. I think you really go step-by-step.
“In the end, I think it’s passion that drives us all _ the love that we have for the sport, the love we have to challenge ourselves, challenge the cars and nowadays instead of racing with go-karts we just end up in bigger cars on bigger tracks with more people watching. I think the core hasn’t changed.”
Vettel’s 36 victories leave him five behind the late Ayrton Senna of Brazil, a three-time world champion, on the all-time list topped by seven-time champion Schumacher’s 91 wins. Vettel has compiled 36 wins, 59 podiums and 44 poles en route to his four championships.
“You’ve done it in style, you’re a four-time world champion. You’ve joined the greats,” Horner shouted to Vettel on his radio after he crossed the finish line.
“He fully deserves his place in history and continues to get better,” Horner added post-race. “An enormous performance this weekend. He was determined to do it here and do it in style. I’m unusually proud of the whole team. It’s not about me, it’s not about Adrian, it’s about how we work as a group. It’s just amazing. It’s all about working with people, empowering them and allowing them to do their job.”
Vettel now has qualified on-pole and won all three races on the 3.192-mile/16-turn Buddh International Circuit, which Vettel noted currently is not on the 2014 FIA calendar.
Next up is the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov. 3, followed by the second annual United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, Nov. 15-17.
NBC Sports Network will re-air the Indian GP at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) today.
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