Sebastian Vettel is laughing off allegations that Red Bull is using illegal traction control to gain a big advantage on its rivals.
The German has a 60-point lead in the Formula One championship standings heading into this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix and appears headed toward a fourth straight title.
His huge speed advantage in the previous race in Singapore prompted former F1 team boss Giancarlo Minardi to allege Red Bull is using banned traction control to gain a cornering-speed advantage.
Asked about the allegation on Thursday, Vettel laughed and joked that even a forecast typhoon in southern Korea on race day will not be able to stop him winning because "since we have traction control, it doesn’t matter so much."
Vettel’s three straight titles and continued dominance this year have prompted a series of conspiracy theories about how Red Bull achieves its tremendous cornering speed, from adjustable ride heights to illegal diffusers and now traction control.
"We are pretty proud of the system and others have to figure out how we have done it," Vettel said. "That is part of the homework they have to do."
He said he was not angry over the allegations of cheating.
"I don’t think it was meant as an insult," Vettel said. "People are interested in the sport and the technology behind it."
Minardi, who gave name to the team that competed from 1985-2005, attended the race in Singapore — where Vettel was at times a staggering 2.5 seconds a lap faster than his rivals — and said the sound of the car in corners indicated it was using a form of traction control.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton said Thursday the Red Bull was using something which its rivals could only guess at.
"Perhaps they have a lot more in the bag that we get to see," Hamilton said. "He is on the power full throttle at least 20 meters before everyone else, which is a huge advantage."
Vettel’s nearest championship rival Fernando Alonso of Ferrari said the different sound of the Red Bull in cornering had been apparent since preseason testing, and does not account for its growing dominance in the latter half of the season.
"They are using something different compared to other teams but something that is completely OK because it’s passed all the tests on Saturdays and Sundays," Alonso said. "It’s up to us to do a better job."
Given his remarkable speed advantage, it appears the main threat to Vettel’s chances of a third straight Korean GP victory will come from the weather.
A forecast typhoon south of Korea could affect Yeongam and bring the kind of heavy rain that blighted the first year of the event in 2010.
"Rain is forecast at this stage for Sunday, and maybe more than rain, we don’t know what’s coming," Vettel said. "The package is strong no matter where we go, so we are confident."
Wild weather could deliver the kind of upset result that is needed to breathe new life into the championship, but Alonso said heavy rain may not help Ferrari much either.
"You never know in wet races who will be the lucky one in that situation," Alonso said. "With the downforce they (Red Bull) have, in wet conditions they should be stronger."
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen could be a threat in any conditions, but the Finn isn’t even sure he’ll be able to start Sunday’s race because of a lingering back injury, saying he will decide after Friday’s practice sessions.
"Once we drive tomorrow I will know more," Raikkonen said, adding that "it would be pointless coming here if I didn’t race."