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Vettel On A Major ‘Roll’ As He Arrives In Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 14 2013

Sebastian Vettel smoked 'em in Formula 1 this season.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – Working on a seven-race winning streak and with his fourth consecutive Formula One World Driving Championship in the books, Sebastian Vettel has reduced the 2013 season to a single question:

Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme?

We’re talking about donuts, breakfast of the campgrounds for fans of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and the obligatory celebration for winning stock car drivers from Bristol, Tenn., to Fontana, Calif.

Vettel has punctuated his two most recent victories for Red Bull Racing/Renault in the Indian and Abu Dhabi Grand Prixs with tire-smoking donuts. In India, Vettel celebrated his fourth championship by ripping off a series of donuts on the front straight of the Buddh International Circuit. He then exited his RB9 and tossed his driving gloves into the crowd, leaving the car sitting on the grid.

That broke a rule calling for the top three finishers to drive directly to parc ferme, as mandated by the FIA. Officials from the world sanctioning body surrounded Vettel’s abandoned vehicle and driver and team manager Jonathan Wheatley subsequently were summoned to meet with race stewards. Vettel later was reprimanded and RBR was slapped with a $34,500 fine.

“Obviously, I spoke to the stewards after India,” Vettel said post-race at Abu Dhabi. “I’m not sure I remember everything they said but… yeah… I was just happy. It’s a sort of stadium there. It’s really nice, people all around you. I think they loved it.”

Asked if he expected an additional fine after serving up another batch of donuts at Abu Dhabi, Vettel said, “No, I don’t think so because this time I brought the car back, so it’s fine.

“If I get excluded from the next race then probably I won’t be able to do them. Again, it was spontaneous. Obviously I had the experience (in India) but entering the sort of stadium, I thought it was a very, very good spot. I made sure there was nobody around and I was far away from the lines. I think if we are in a position to think about that then obviously it’s very special because it means we had a very, very good result in the race. So I think there’s a lot of work before we get to decide whether we can do it again or not.”

Vettel’s win in Abu Dhabi was his seventh in a row, tying fellow-German Michael Schumacher’s record set in 2004 with Scuderia Ferrari. Vettel’s 11th win of the season also placed him 130 points ahead of runnerup and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari heading into Sunday’s second annual United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas.

Lewis Hamilton, then of McLaren/Mercedes, won last year’s inaugural event on the purpose-built, 3.4-mile/20-turn layout. Vettel joined the chorus who exited Texas impressed with the $400-million facility in Travis County. A near-sellout crowd of 117,429 turned out last Nov. 18 for F1’s first race in the USA since 2007 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Well, I think it was fantastic last year,” said Vettel, who finished second with Alonso third after 56 laps. “To be honest, we were all very surprised. Obviously, up to that point, Formula One didn’t have the best record in the United States, so it was great to see that there were so many people. The whole city… I think that’s really the special thing that we enjoy, apart from the track itself, that the whole city was living the grand prix. You could feel that there was a special vibe and that everyone was looking forward to the event. I think it was generally very positive.”

Last November’s race was the 52nd round of the F1 World Championship conducted in the USA since the inaugural event on an airport layout near Sebring, Fla., in 1959. COTA became the 10th different venue, and second in Texas (State Fair Park in Dallas, 1984) to play host to F1’s “Flying Circus.”

“I think the track is tricky, very challenging, mixed, with high-speed and slow corners,” Vettel said. “It was nice to be on the podium last year, nice to get a different kind of hat (black Stetson). Yeah, we’ll try to do it again.”

Already F1’s youngest four-time world champion at 26, Vettel is within reach of a pair of records with only Sunday’s race and the season-finale in Brazil on Nov. 24 remaining. Vettel could match Schumacher’s all-time/single-season record of 13 Grand Prix wins by sweeping the final two, which also would tie Alberto Ascari’s record of nine consecutive victories spread over the 1952-53 seasons.

Judging by his performance at Abu Dhabi, Vettel appears poised to run the table beginning with Friday morning’s opening practice here.

“The car was absolutely brilliant,” Vettel said at Abu Dhabi, where RBR teammate Mark Webber finished second and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG F1 ran third. “Absolutely brilliant. Not much more to say. I was flying at some stages. At least it felt like it. Massive gaps, big surprise. Thanks to the team, thanks to Renault as well. A lot of our success is also down to them.

“It doesn’t make me jump into the car but it’s a shock when you mention these (Schumacher and Ascari records). I knew that any kind of record you talk about, Michael is involved for sure, so… yeah… I don’t know what to say. The thing is that people see seven races. People don’t see the challenge it takes every single race to nail it. It’s been exceptional. The fact that we got everything right _ smooth pit stops, reliability _ all these things need to come together.

“The numbers are not that important to me but equally they make me very, very proud. It you equal something or you’re close to something then… the guys you talk about are the most special drivers in the world in Formula One. So, yeah, I don’t think I’m old enough to realize. Probably.”

Vettel completed his 118th Grand Prix at Abu Dhabi, where he scored his 37 victory. At the same point in his career, Schumacher had logged 33 victories and two world championships en route to his record seven. Schumacher was 32 when he won his fourth world championship.

“Obviously winning is very special,” Vettel said. “Every single race is tough. It’s a lot of work that goes into it, from Thursday, even before that at the simulator, and then the whole weekend.

“I remember when I was a small kid watching Formula One and Michael was with Ferrari and dominating Formula One. They had a very strong car, very strong team spirit for many years and…if you look back you feel like he won every second race. But to equal some of the stuff that they managed to achieve is very, very special _ for me but also I think for the whole team. Definitely after 2011, a special year, we said it would be very difficult to repeat a season like that and maybe it comes across once in a lifetime. Now, we can probably say it came across twice at least.”

McLaren has confirmed Danish newcomer Kevin Magnussen as teammate to former world champion Jenson Button for the 2014 season, temporarily leaving Sergio Perez of Mexico out of a ride.

“Everything came really late, which puts me in a very difficult position for my future,” said Perez, 23, who replaced former world champion Lewis Hamilton after the latter moved to Mercedes following the 2012 season. “I had no idea, it just came as a shock to me because the team was always giving me good feedback. Everything was pretty much settled down and I was going to stay with the team, but then something happened in the last few weeks so they decided not to (retain him).”

Magnussen, 21, recently won this year’s World Series by Renault 3.5 Championship and is a member of McLaren’s driver development program. Magnussen also has made several official test appearances for McLaren, most recently at this year’s young driver session at Silverstone, England. His father, Jan, made a single appearance with McLaren in the 1995 Pacific Grand Prix in Japan.

Former GP winner Heikki Kovalainen will replace Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus this weekend at COTA and during the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix. The 32-year-old Finn, who has started 109 races for teams including McLaren and Caterham, will team with Frenchman Romain Grosjean after Raikkonen elected to undergo season-ending back surgery.

Räikkönen will return to Ferrari _ the team with which he won the 2007 world championship _next season.

Brazilian Felipe Massa – who will be replaced by Raikkonen at the Scuderia in 2014 _ will join Williams as teammate to Valtteri Bottas in 2014. Massa, who will replace Pastor Maldonado, has compiled 11 F1 victories and 36 podium finishes during his 12-year career.

Tickets remain available for the 2013 F1 United States Grand Prix through Sunday at the COTA Grand Plaza Ticket Office. Three-day and single-day tickets are available and start at $49 per person. For more information about ticket options and pricing for the F1 USGP, visit http://circuitoftheamericas.com/f1.

For information on transportation and parking options for this year’s race, visit http://www.circuitoftheamericas.com/transportation.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 14 2013
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