Vettel closes in on fourth straight title but insists it is not over yet

 
Julian Harris
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RED BULL’S Sebastian Vettel could clinch his fourth consecutive world drivers’ title this week after storming to another comprehensive victory at the Korean Grand Prix yesterday.

The 26-year-old is remaining calm despite the prospect of sealing the championship this Sunday in Japan – a country where he has won the last four Grands Prix.

“I’m trying not to think about it to be honest. I don’t really care, [but] I look forward to Japan because it’s one of the nicest tracks of the whole season,” said Vettel, who finished more than four seconds ahead of the Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Britain’s Lewis Hamilton was fifth.

“Even though it looks very good, it’s still not over so we shouldn’t feel too comfortable. Which track [do I win it at]? It’s not really important. Our target is to win the championship and not to win it in one place in particular.”

Vettel started on pole and enjoyed a better start than Hamilton, whose Mercedes was second on the grid.

Hamilton lost a place early on to Grosjean’s Lotus, and later slipped further down the rankings due to a delayed pit-stop. With his front-right tyre severely worn, the English former world champion resorted to swearing down the radio to his team as he pleaded to be called into the pits. Yet team-mate Nico Rosberg was pitting at the time, delaying Hamilton.

“I was turning and turning and nothing was happening,” said Hamilton. “I lost a lot of ground there. We need to figure it out because we are faster than our results.”

The state of Pirelli’s tyres was highlighted again yesterday, after a season of troubles. McLaren’s Sergio Perez suffered a tyre blow-out on one of the track’s straights, drawing more complaints from drivers.

“That is how it is. The drivers aren’t super important – it is what other people want,” said Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who was behind Perez at the time.

“The tyres are wearing a lot and they also explode a bit – but that is for Pirelli to sort out. Pirelli will put the puncture of Perez down to a lock-up but the reason the drivers are locking up is because there’s no tread left.”

Pirelli’s motorsport boss Paul Hembery brushed off the concerns, however. “It was after 21 laps [of these tyres] so he was at the end of the stint,” he said. “That was the lap life, 20-22 laps, which meant he didn’t have a lot of compound left on the tyre.”

Hembery was criticised after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone earlier in the season, where several drivers suffered dramatic tyre failures, resulting in the company making changes for the following races.

Webber’s race yesterday also ended abruptly when his car caught fire on lap 37 after being hit by Adrian Sutil’s Force India.

The Australian said the car’s kinetic energy recovery system – known as KERS, and which allows occasional bursts of extra pace – was to blame.

British driver Paul di Resta’s poor run of form continued yesterday as he too was forced into a retirement after crashing on lap 26.

RESULT AND STANDINGS

Korean Grand Prix
1. S Vettel (Red Bull) 1hr, 43m, 13s

2. K Raikkonen (Lotus) 1hr, 43m, 17s

3. R Grosjean (Lotus) 1hr, 43m, 18s

4. N Hulkenberg (Sauber) 1hr, 43m, 37s

Drivers’ championship
1. S Vettel (Red Bull) 272 points

2. F Alonso (Ferrari) 195 pts

3. K Raikkonen (Lotus) 167 pts

4. L Hamilton (Mercedes) 161 pts

Constructors’ championship
1. Red Bull (Renault engine) – 402 points

2. Ferrari – 284 pts

3. Mercedes – 283 pts

4. Lotus (Renault engine) – 239 points