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Vettel Rewriting German History

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 17 2013

Sebastian Vettel has Michael Schumacher in his sites.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

AUSTIN, Texas – Comparisons between Formula One superstars Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher have become routine this season as the “Baby-Faced Killer” continues to accelerate the pursuit of his fellow-German countryman and boyhood idol.

Vettel, so-dubbed on the cover of a recent issue of “AutoWeek,” one-upped his hero via a dominating performance during Sunday’s second annual United States Grand Prix. Starting on-pole, Vettel led all but two of 56 laps around Circuit of The America’s 3.4-mile/20-turn layout en route to his eighth consecutive victory and 12th in 18 races this season.

Vettel’s win snapped a single-season tie with Schumacher, who won seven in a row while at Scuderia Ferrari in 2004. Alberto Ascari of Italy won nine consecutive races – six at the end of the 1952 season and the first three in 1953 – en route to consecutive F1 World Driving Championships with Ferrari.

Vettel, who clinched his fourth consecutive world championship with Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault two races ago, can tie “The Great Schumey” for most single-season wins at 13 in next Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Schumacher retired for a second time in 2012 after a disappointing season with Mercedes AMG Petronas albeit with these record numbers – seven world championships, 91 wins, 68 poles, 155 podium finishes, 19 consecutive podium finishes and 5,071 laps-led.

“Well, in a way I think I have the same approach as him, as probably every sportsman,” said Vettel, who was asked what Michael might think of his latest record. “I don’t think we are jumping into the car to beat certain records. At his time, he was breaking a lot of records and many of them will last forever, I think. To come even close and today to beat one of those is exceptional. I think, as a sportsman, you don’t jump into the car to break records and equally you don’t expect them to last forever.

“I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago and generally, I think he’s very happy with what he has achieved and seemed fairly relaxed. I think he’s riding a lot of horses lately, so he’s quite happy to go out karting with his kids and enjoying his life after Formula One. There’s a huge part of our lives if you consider there’s a lot of years left once we retire. It’s good to enjoy those as well.”

At 26 and the youngest four-time world champion in F1 history, Vettel is years removed from retirement. Consider that Schumacher was 32 when he won his fourth world championship, leaving Seb X-amount of time to ravage the record book.

“It’s incredible,” said Vettel, avoiding eye-contact and measuring his words on eight-in-a-row during the post-race interview conducted by the sanctioning FIA. “I think it’s one of those things that you never expect to…one of those records that you never expect to be beaten, so it’s very difficult to find the right words. I didn’t really answer the questions the last couple of days because what makes me jump into the car is not a certain number. But certainly today, when you realize that you’ve done it, it makes you very proud in that moment. People look back and talk about that time and about certain drivers and one day people might look back and talk about our time and what we’ve done as a team.”

Vettel ran a one-pit stop strategy, starting on Pirelli’s P Zero White medium compound rubber before switching to the P Zero Orange hard compound on Lap 27. The top-12 finishers opted for that one-and-done pit strategy. Vettel led all but two of the 56 laps/192 miles while finishing 6.284-seconds ahead of Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who posted his best result of the season for Lotus/Renault. Australian Mark Webber, Vettel’s lame duck RBR teammate, completed the podium in third.

But wait, there’s more Seb. Vettel’s 38th career victory in 119 starts left him three short of tying triple world champion Ayrton Senna of Brazil for third on the all-time list.

“We’ll have to remember these days. There’s no guarantee they’ll last forever,” Vettel said over his radio to team principal Christian Horner and crew during a cool-down lap. “I love you guys. We have an incredible team spirit. I love you guys.”

Reaching the apex of COTA’s signature uphill Turn 1, Vettel spun off a series of tire-smoking, rubber-burning “donuts” _an American ritual that now has continued for a record three consecutive F1 races. “It just seemed like a good spot,” said Vettel, who previously served up donuts after his victories in the Indian and Abu Dhabi Grand Prixs.

Gov. Rick Perry handed Vettel his trophy, although Seb and Webber declined to don white Stetsons for post-race ceremonies and interviews conducted by Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion with Team Lotus and COTA’s official ambassador.

“He (Vettel) spoke about the spirit in his team and I think we have the same,” said Grosjean, who wore his Stetson with a wide smile and whose sixth podium result strengthened his case as new No. 1 driver at Lotus following the departure of former world champion Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari. “Every guy is happy to come to work in the morning and happy to work and check things,” Grosjean said. “You know, drivers will always complain about this and this and this. They change it and it brings us to second at the end of the day.”

Webber, pipped for P1 by Vettel on his last flying lap Saturday, said he pretty much knew his fate was sealed at that point. “Pole position was where the fight was,” said Webber, who is headed to Porsche’s revived Prototype sports car racing program in 2014 and out of earshot of Vettelmania. “Yeah, I did a pretty clean race. I think the performance and pace were very strong from my side, but yesterday was when victory was made easier for Seb.”

The day began on a serious note as COTA officials, in conjunction with law enforcement in Travis County, investigated “a suspicious incident in the Turn 1 area.” During routine security checks public safety officials – including representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) – responded and found nothing wrong. As a precaution, opening of the entire facility was delayed while follow-up security checks were completed.

Vettel’s day began with a brief drive in a blue, 427 cubic-inch Shelby Cobra, one of several American muscle and classic cars used to parade the drivers around the circuit between performance by the University of Texas Longhorn Band, cheerleaders and dancers…and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Sunday’s race then was played-out in postcard-perfect weather before an announced crowd of 113,162 fans, down from last year’s 117,429. Three-day attendance was 250,324, down from last year’s 265,499.

“I would like to say ‘thanks’ to the crowd,” Vettel said during his interview with Andretti, the second and last American F1 world champion. “It’s unbelievable. Only our second race here and we’ve got more than 100,000 people coming on Sunday. The whole city is going crazy, so it’s phenomenal to race here in front of the crowd.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

FIA Formula 1 United States Grand Prix results after 56 laps/192 miles around the 3.4-mile/20-turn Circuit of The Americas with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine, and time differential:

1. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 1 hour, 39:17.148-seconds

2. (8) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, 1:39:23.432, plus 6.284-seconds

3. (2) Mark Webber, Australia, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 1:39:25.544, plus 8.396-seconds

4. (10) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 1:39:44.506, plus 27.358-seconds

5. (3) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 1:39:46.740, plus 29.592-seconds

6. (11) Niko Hulkenberg, Germany, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 1:39:47.548, plus 30.400-seconds

7. (6) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, 1:40.03.840, plus 46.692-seconds

8. (17) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams F1 Team/Renault, 1:40:11.657, plus 54.509-seconds

9. (9) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 1:40:16.289, plus 59.141-seconds

10. (5) Jenson Button, Great Britain, Vodafone McLaren/Mercedes, 1:40:34.426, plus 77.278-seconds

11. (19) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, 1:40:38.152, plus 81.004-seconds

12. (18) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Ferrari, 1:40:41.722, plus 84.574-seconds

13. (4) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Scuderia/Ferrari, 1:40:44.062, plus 86.914-seconds

14. (12) Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 1:40:48.855, plus 91.707-seconds

15. (7) Heikki Kovalainen, Finland, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, 1:40:52.211, plus 95.063-seconds

16. (14) Paul di Resta, Great Britain, Sahara Force India/Mercedes, 1:40:54.001, plus 96.853-seconds

17. (16) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams F1 Team/Renault, 1:39:34.305, plus 1 lap

18. (22) Jules Bianchi, France, Marussia F1 Team/Cosworth, 1:40:13.681, plus 1 lap

19. (21) Giedo van der Garde, The Netherlands, Catherham F1 Team/Renault, 1:40:15.632, plus 1 lap

20. (20) Charles Pic, France, Caterham F1 Team/Renault, 1:40:45.887, plus 1 lap

21. (23) Max Chilton, Great Britain, Marussia F1 Team/Cosworth, 1:39:35.785, plus 2 laps

22. (15) Adrian Sutil, Germany, Sahara Force India/Mercedes, 0 laps, DNF

Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:39.856-seconds on Lap 54. Average winning speed: 186.374 mph.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 17 2013
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