x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sebastian Vettel knows he did nothing wrong

German driver puts the incident at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix behind him and is focused on Brazil.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel could surpass Nigel Mansell’s pole position record this weekend.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel could surpass Nigel Mansell’s pole position record this weekend.

SAO PAULO // Sebastian Vettel, the world champion, has no plans to dwell on the incident that saw his Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ruined and is instead focusing on finishing the Formula One season strongly this weekend in Brazil.

The German driver was forced to retire at Yas Marina Circuit two weeks ago when he suffered a puncture on the first turn. Neither his team, Red Bull Racing, nor Pirelli, the Italian tyre manufacturers, were able to specify the precise reason for the blow-out, but Vettel said yesterday he can rest easy safe in the knowledge it was not his fault.

"We will never find out 100 per cent what happened," he said in the paddock at Interlagos, site of Sunday's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix.

"But the most important thing for me was to understand that it was nothing I did wrong: it wasn't the line I took and I didn't run over any debris.

"I don't like the term 'bad luck', but there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent the problem."

Vettel, 24, is hoping his fortunes are better in Brazil, although he acknowledges he can hardly complain as he approaches the end of a year that has seen him convert 14 pole positions into 11 race wins.

He will usurp Nigel Mansell's record if he can secure the fastest lap in tomorrow's qualifying, but insisted, despite having little to lose after securing a second successive drivers' title in Japan last month, he has no intention of prioritising qualifying over the race.

"To be honest, nowadays, there is really nothing you can do to sacrifice the race and gain a lot in qualifying anyway," he said. "It doesn't work like that. Yes, it might be a special opportunity, but it's a special grand prix, as well, so we'll try to prepare the car for both."

While Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber, is looking forward to "a good five or six weeks" in the off-season without having to think about racing, Vettel could be forgiven for not wanting it to end, such has been his domination this year.

"It's been a long season; you must remember we started in mid-January, February was the first tests and now it is nearly December, so it's tough for the whole team and we need a break to get ready for next year," Vettel said.

"But, when you find the rhythm and you are on a good run, then, yes, you don't want it to end."

Wrapping up the title with four races yet to be contested allowed him to enjoy and appreciate his surroundings a lot more.

"The nice thing is the last couple of races there has been less pressure," he said. "Sometimes, when you are in the heat of the moment, you are so focused that you maybe don't see everything, but when you are able to stand on the grid in India, look around and see all the people happy to see you race, you appreciate you are a lucky man."

Lewis Hamilton would likely agree.

Much of the Englishman's season has been troubled, yet the McLaren-Mercedes driver won in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago and arrived at the circuit yesterday in high spirits.

The 26 year old spent his time between races in the United States, where he had dinner with former girlfriend Nicole Schwerzinger and also met some of his musical idols.

"The past few days have been really positive," he said. "I was talking to a friend just recently who is very wise and I said 'it's been a difficult year', and he said 'it's not been a difficult year, it's been a year of growth'. I thought was one of the most positive things I've heard."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae