Having already clinched his second straight Formula One championship, Sebastian Vettel says he has plenty of work to do in the last four races this season.
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Beginning with Sunday’s Korean Grand Prix at the Yeongam track, the perfectionist in Vettel will take over as he looks for ways to improve on his third-place finish in Japan last weekend.
As elated as the Red Bull driver was to secure the championship in Japan, finishing third behind Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso at Suzuka didn’t sit well with him. It gives the 24-year-old German – F1’s youngest two-time champion – plenty of motivation for the Korean GP.
”Obviously, we are over the moon to wrap up the championship, but we didn’t win (at Suzuka) so we’ve got another chance in the next races and we want to use those chances,” Vettel said. ”It’s all about using the chances you have.”
The championship aside, Vettel was clearly frustrated at finishing third at Suzuka, where he won from the pole the previous two years.
Just how determined he was to win was evident from the start of Sunday’s race when he got a slightly slow start and cut hard to his right to block Button, who was forced to brake and put wheels on the grass to avoid contact.
With 10 laps to go, he was close enough to Alonso to attempt overtaking the Ferrari driver, but opted to play it safe knowing the championship would be secured with third place.
”There is a lot of pressure to win,” Vettel said. ”We want to beat those guys. We didn’t do it (at Suzuka) so we’ve got another chance in the next race.”
There are other things to keep Vettel interested, too, not the least of which is the constructors’ championship. Red Bull is the defending champion and has a 130-point lead over McLaren heading into South Korea.
Then there are the personal records. With nine races won so far in 2011, Vettel could equal the season record of 13 wins held by countryman Michael Schumacher if he wins all four remaining races.
Only three drivers have won more pole positions in a single season than Vettel, who earned his 12th in Japan. Nigel Mansell holds the record with 14 from 1992. Ayrton Senna was on the pole 13 times in both 1988 and 1989, while Alain Prost repeated the Brazilian’s achievement in 1993.
Vettel is now fourth on the all-time list of podium finishes in a single season. His 14th in Japan leaves him just three short of Schumacher’s record of 17 set in 2002.
Vettel and Red Bull aren’t the only ones with goals to achieve in the last four races. Second place in the drivers’ standings is still up for grabs, with Mclaren’s Button holding an eight-point lead over Alonso.
Alonso won last year’s inaugural Korean Grand Prix, finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa. Vettel led from the pole position until his engine gave way 10 laps from the finish.
Alonso said winning races is a bigger priority for the remainder of the season than finishing second in the championship.
”I would prefer to win and finish fifth in the championship than finishing second in the championship and not winning one race,” Alonso said.
Still lingering is the feud between Massa and Hamilton.
It flared up again in Japan when the drivers made contact at the chicane when Hamilton cut in front of Massa. The Brazilian was furious after finishing seventh.
”I think the footage speaks for itself,” Massa said on his official website. ”He was struggling with his tires and I had almost come alongside him and for no reason, he moved over and hit me. It’s pointless for me to say any more about it.”
The two had a collision at the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks earlier when Massa lashed out at Hamilton, saying the McLaren ace endangered other drivers with reckless driving. Race officials investigated the incident but no further action was taken.
After Korea, F1 will stage its first race in India on Oct. 30, then move to Abu Dhabi on Nov. 13 before wrapping up the season in Brazil on Nov. 27.