SILVERSTONE // When Sebastian Vettel swept to a stunning success for unfancied Toro Rosso last September in the Italian backyard of Ferrari at Monza, it confirmed his rich potential. As he became Formula One's youngest winner at 21 years and 74 days, he was a world champion in the making.
Vettel, who will be 22 next month, will surpass Lewis Hamilton's record by a year if he claims the title in this campaign. Hopes are now high again following his outstanding British Grand Prix victory and Christian Horner, the Red Bull principal, says the team will do everything possible to aid his quest. When Jenson Button won six of the first seven races this season, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Briton would be crowned champion.
With a 23-point lead from Rubens Barrichello and Vettel two points further behind, the Brawn GP driver remains in command, but Horner says his rivals will be worried and remains confident they can still take the championship race to a final showdown at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on Nov 1. "I would be worried if I saw a performance like that from another team," he said after Vettel and Mark Webber led a Red Bull one-two at Silverstone.
"It was quite a dominant display by Red Bull Racing. The really encouraging factor is that we have been quick in all three sectors of the circuit, the high speed and the low speed, so hopefully we can take that into the next races. "This championship is not over by a long way and we never believed it was. We will try to take the fight to Abu Dhabi. I hope it will come down to the final race. "There is a determination within the team. They see we have a fantastic car and the team is working together tremendously well.
"I believe the foundations we put in place a couple of years ago are now coming to fruition. "It's a very talented group of people that are working very well together." While the Australian Webber claimed a third podium in four races, he still waits for a first win. Vettel now has three in just 34 races, highlighting why he is the man most likely to challenge Button. A single-minded focus and winning mentality on the track has earned him comparisons with his fellow German and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
But Horner has revealed another side of his young charge and believes he will make his own mark. "Sebastian is constantly cracking jokes, and he is very popular member of the team," he said. "He also understands English humour, which is quite remarkable. I think it's way too early to start comparing him with Schumacher. "Sebastian Vettel is Sebastian Vettel and he will lay his own footprint in the future. He just gets better and better. He is doing an awesome job. For such a young age, he's extremely mature and he has a tremendous amount of spare capacity when driving a car.
As he gains more experience, he will continue to improve. You can't try to curb his enthusiasm or his attacking instincts. "He's young and will occasionally make mistakes, but he will learn from those mistakes. He's been faultless this weekend." Vettel is hoping for more of the same when he returns home for the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring on July 12. He said: "I hope to try to repeat what we did here, which won't be easy, but, for sure, that's what we're aiming for."