October 10, 2011
Vettel becoming a one-man show in F1
By SPORTS NETWORK
Yokohama, Japan - Sebastian Vettel made it look easy in winning his second consecutive Formula One world championship this year.
At age 24, Vettel became the youngest double champion in the 62-year history of the racing circuit. He clinched the title with a third-place run in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, which by the way, happened to be his second worst finish of the season so far.
Vettel, in his third year with Red Bull Racing, has accumulated 324 points to date, which is 114 more than his closest competitor, Jenson Button, who notched his third win of the season in the Japanese GP.
Even if Button from McLaren were to win the remaining four grand prix and Vettel did not score another point -- finishing outside the top-10 in each of those races -- Vettel would end the season 14 points ahead of Button.
How dominant has Vettel been in 2011?
He has won nine times and appeared on the podium in all but one of the first 15 grand prix. His fourth-place finish in front of his home crowd in Germany has been his lowest position this year.
On record, Vettel's campaign for another F1 title looked simple, but the young German won't agree with that notion.
"I think that it's very likely for people to draw the wrong conclusion, to say that we had a very easy run this year," Vettel said. "Things like this happen for a reason. I strongly believe that, not because things were easy for us. We had a very good car, no doubt. But we had an even stronger team. I think the car this year was less dominant than the car last year."
One day after the Japanese GP, Vettel met with the public and the media at the Nissan Motor Company's global headquarters gallery in Yokohama. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner joined Vettel at the appearance.
"It's phenomenal for Sebastian Vettel to win his second world championship," Horner said. "He's driven magnificently this year and thoroughly deserves this championship victory, which he has dominated since the first race in Melbourne."
F1 continues its Asian tour this coming weekend with the Korean Grand Prix.
Red Bull is on the verge of winning the F1 constructors' championship for the second year in a row. The team presently has 518 points compared to 388 for McLaren.
Vettel's championship celebration this year will last longer than his one in 2010, when he had to overcome a points deficit to clinch the title in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. After finishing 17th in Korea -- the third-to-last round on last year's calendar -- Vettel trailed Ferrari's Fernando Alonso by 25 points.
But Vettel made a remarkable comeback by winning in Brazil and then Abu Dhabi. He edged Alonso for the championship by just four points. It was the first time Vettel led in point standings since his F1 career began in 2007. And it couldn't have come a better time.
"The first title will always be something special, always deep in your memory," he said. "This year has been a completely different year, whereas last year, we allowed a lot of mistakes to happen."
Last season, Vettel surpassed McLaren's Lewis Hamilton as the youngest F1 world champion. Hamilton clinched the 2008 title by only one point over Felipe Massa from Ferrari.
Vettel has several other records to his credit already. At age 21, he became F1's youngest race winner and pole sitter in 2008 at Monza, Italy. Vettel also became the youngest point scorer with an eighth-place finish in the 2007 Unites States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. He was 19 years old at the time.
Right now, Vettel is just two pole wins away from tying Nigel Mansell's season-record of 14, set in 1992. If Vettel were to win the remaining four races this year, he would tie his fellow compatriot Michael Schumacher for most victories in a season with 13.
With two world championships and 19 career F1 wins so far, many are now speculating that Vettel has an opportunity to break Schumacher's all-time record of seven titles and 91 grand prix victories.
Schumacher, in his second year with Mercedes GP, has finished no better than fourth since ending his three-year retirement (2007-09).
"I think speaking of Michael, you always need to back off a little bit, because it is something very special in what he has achieved," Vettel said. "So it's hard to aim for that, but really I think the secret this year for me has been to go step by step, and that's what we have to focus on in the future as well."
For Vettel to top Schumacher for the two biggest records in F1 would seem like a tall order, but if Vettel has more seasons like the one he's had this year, it certainly not out of the realm of possibility.