Just savour Vettel's ride into history

AS SEBASTIAN Vettel celebrated his seventh win in succession in Abu Dhabi, some people have unsurprisingly described his domination of the second half of the 2013 Formula One season as boring.

I disagree.

We should savour watching sporting history being made.

I suspect that, in years to come, we will talk about witnessing a Formula One legend being created. At just 26 years old, Vettel can already be mentioned in the same breath as the mighty Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna or Juan Manuel Fangio.

Last Sunday's win confirmed again that we are watching someone special. From second place on the grid, Vettel balanced first the amount of throttle against clutch slip and wheel-spin, then hit the kinetic energy recovery system (Kers) button in a perfectly timed move to boost his car's power and snatch the lead in the opening corner.

Team-mate Mark Webber, who had stolen pole-position glory from Vettel, wasn't so slick with his Kers timing.

As Vettel took the lead, Webber slipped back to third behind the hard-charging Mercedes of Nico Rosberg.

While some believe that developments such as Kers hybrid power and the drag reduction system (DRS) demean pure racing, in Abu Dhabi, it was fascinating to watch drivers working with the technology to gain an advantage.

On lap 20 of the race, Webber got his Kers tactics just right.

Heading out of the slow Turn 7 onto the long back straight, he elected not to use his power boost in pursuit of Rosberg.

Instead, he rode in the slipstream of the Mercedes as it used all of its battery power on the run to the next chicane. He then surprised the German driver with an unexpected boost of horsepower, to augment his DRS on the next straight and regained second spot.

Ahead of the pack, however, Vettel's victory was a crushing one. His early pace allowed him to create an advantage of between 30 and 40 seconds over his rivals.

Even when he made two tyre stops, he was able to rejoin without relinquishing his lead.

As he took the chequered flag, he again entered the record books.

Only he and Schumacher have won seven successive races in a single season.

With 11 wins this year, he could even be on course to equal Schumacher's 2004 record of 13.

Vettel, though, was genuinely surprised when post-race interviewers asked him about matching Schumacher's score. He regularly insists he is not motivated by records.

"It is not what makes me jump in the car," he said.

"People see seven races, people don't see the challenge it takes every single race to nail it.

"I remember when I was a small kid watching F1. Michael was with Ferrari and dominating F1. He had a very strong car and strong team spirit for many years.

"To equal some of the stuff he managed to achieve is very special, not just for me, but the whole team. I think it is exceptional we got everything right, the pit-stops, the reliability.

"I'm very, very proud."

He also demonstrated that, perhaps unlike Schumacher, he is a crowd-pleasing showman.

When he celebrated his world crown with tyre-smoking "doughnuts" two weekends ago in India, before abandoning his car to celebrate with fans, his actions earned the team a ¤25,000 (S$41,750) fine.

Undaunted, he repeated the gyrating tyre-smoking display at Yas Marina, joined by Webber as the Red Bulls celebrated their 1-2 finish. On this occasion, Vettel escaped the stewards' sanction by returning his car to the paddock.

"This time, I brought the car back so I hope I stuck to the rules," he said with his trademark grin.

It is hard to bet against yet more of such celebrations after the final two races of the season.

stsports@sph.com.sg

 

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