Vettel dominates Abu Dhabi for win
World champion Sebastian Vettel is not finished with Formula One’s record books just yet.
His dominant win in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was his seventh in a row — matching Michael Schumacher’s feat in 2004 — and 11th of the season that leaves him 130 points ahead of his nearest rival.
At 26, the Red Bull driver is the youngest four-time F1 champion. By the end of November, he could have matched two more records.
With two races left, he could reach Schumacher’s single-season record of 13 GP wins and Alberto Ascari’s long-standing record of nine consecutive race wins, although they spanned two seasons in 1952-53.
"I think it is hard to put these things into perspective," Vettel said. "But it’s incredible to have such a strong bunch of people who believe so strongly in what they are doing."
Vettel started from second on the grid, but within seconds had overtaken Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and was unchallenged after that, beating Webber by 30.8 seconds over 55 laps, and finishing 33.6 clear of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.
"The car was flawless, it doesn’t happen that often that the car responds to everything you want," Vettel said. "I am looking forward to tonight, where there will be a few drinks."
Although the German had already clinched his latest F1 title at the Indian GP last weekend, he wasn’t stopping there.
Vettel now has 37 career race wins and looked stunned when told he had just matched Schumacher’s run of seven wins in a row in one campaign.
"Obviously, winning is very special," Vettel said. "Seven races in a row — every single one is tough. I remember watching Formula One as a kid (when) Michael was dominating for Ferrari."
Vettel can set a single-season record with eight straight at the United States Grand Prix in two weeks’ time. Then, victory at the season-ending Brazilian GP a week later will see him match Ascari.
"People see seven races they don’t see the challenge it takes every race to nail it," Vettel added. "We got everything right, pit stops, reliability. The numbers aren’t that important to me but equally they make me very, very proud."
Moments after winning, Vettel jogged over to his waiting parents.
"I have spent most of my life racing in front of them as a kid," Vettel said. "The cars are a bit bigger now, but I am so pleased they are here to see me."
Just like last weekend, Vettel celebrated the win with a few screeching doughnuts on the Yas Marina circuit. He was fined last time, but is unlikely to care too much.
Webber’s last win was at the British GP in July last year and the 37-year-old never looked like making it 10 career wins.
The Australian has never been known for his pure speed and made a poor start, allowing Vettel and then Rosberg to pass him.
"The start wasn’t great and Nico got an unbelievable start," Webber said. "I would have liked the win, but I matched my best result here. There are plenty of Aussie fans here so thank you."
Overall it was a good day for Mercedes in the battle with Ferrari for second place in the constructors’ championship.
"Our aim for the weekend was to be best of the rest," Rosberg said. "I was very happy to hear that we took some more points from them."
Red Bull has already won the constructors’ title with 513 points. Mercedes is next with 334 points to Ferrari’s 323.
"The most important thing is to finish second in the constructors’ championship, not only financially but also motivationally for the team," Rosberg said.
Force India driver Paul di Resta finished sixth ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight here, allowing the track to cool and the drivers to avoid the stifling daytime heat.
Kimi Raikkonen’s day proved even more difficult with the Finn retiring on lap one with suspension damage.
"The Caterham only touched a little bit the front wheel, but the angle was so bad it damaged my suspension," Raikkonen said.
The 2007 world champion threatened not to race at all because Lotus has not paid his wages all year. Then he qualified fifth only to be demoted to the back of the grid after his car failed a post-qualifying inspection because of an illegal floor.
As Vettel pulled away, Webber complained over race radio that his KERS power-boosting system was not working properly, costing him valuable seconds as Grosjean pressured him.
Vettel’s lead was so commanding that he could take his first pit stop and still come out comfortably ahead of the chasing pack.
With 10 laps to go, Alonso went off the track after nearly colliding with Vergne’s Toro Rosso. Stewards investigated whether he stayed within the track limits but cleared the Spaniard after the race.
Alonso has not won a race since the Spanish GP in May, but with Raikkonen out, he consolidated his second place in the drivers’ standings.
However, when Alonso looks at the points — Vettel has 347 to his 217 — he will realize just how badly he was beaten this season, having failed to beat Vettel by just three points last year.