Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel could win his fourth straight title as early as next weekend’s Japanese GP after surviving two safety car periods and staying clear of the drama unfolding behind him to claim victory in Korea.
The German’s win yesterday, ahead of the two Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen — who stormed to the podium from ninth on the grid — and Romain Grosjean, extends his winning streak to four successive races and his lead at the top of the standings to 77 points over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who finished sixth.
As a result, with 25 points handed out for a race win and with five races and a maximum of 125 points up for grabs, Vettel could become the youngest-ever four time World Champion next Sunday if he wins in Japan with Alonso finishing no higher than ninth. “I’m not trying to think about it (becoming the World Champion) to be honest,” said Vettel, who could become only the third man to win four straight titles after the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
“Even though it looks very good, it’s still not over so we shouldn’t feel too comfortable,” he said after the race. Behind the top three, Nico Hulkenberg was without a doubt the star of the day, the German bringing his Sauber home in fourth, having held off the likes of Alonso and Lewis Hamilton for most of the race to score the team’s highest finish of the season.
Hamilton finished fifth in his Mercedes, ahead of Alonso, after a tardy start from second on the grid and tyre issues blunted the Briton’s challenge. Nico Rosberg finished seventh and provided one of the highlights of the race when the front wing on his Mercedes suffered a spectacular failure, scraping along the track and throwing up a shower of sparks, even as he was pulling off an overtaking move on his teammate.
McLaren’s Sergio Perez also suffered an unnerving moment of his own when his front right tyre suddenly let go at high speed as a result of vibrations from a flat-spot the Mexican picked up when he locked up under braking for turn one. Perez’s tyre failure brought out the first safety car while a stray jeep ferrying fire marshals to Mark Webber’s flaming Red Bull, which was released onto the track in the path of the field, prompted the safety car to go out for a second time.
However, Vettel kept his calm — and the lead — through it all and even if his performance wasn’t quite as dominant as two weeks ago in Singapore, the reigning World Champion had enough pace to open the gap up to his rivals at the restarts, the Red Bull eventually crossing the line four seconds ahead of Raikkonen.
“We’re just having a good time, we enjoy the fact that the team is working very well,” Vettel said. “The car is working… it’s on the edge to be honest, more so than you would probably think from the outside but it’s obviously nice when you get results like Singapore or today.”