x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Too early to think about Formula One drivers title, says Sebastian Vettel

Tributes being made to yet unnamed marshal whose death overshadows Red Bull driver's dominant win in Canadian Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel raced to his first Formula One Grand Prix win in North America. Stan Honda / AFP
Sebastian Vettel raced to his first Formula One Grand Prix win in North America. Stan Honda / AFP

Sebastian Vettel knows it is too early to start thinking about winning his fourth successive Formula One world championship.

Vettel comfortably triumphed in Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix for the first time, taking the chequered flag for the 29th occasion in his F1 career and third time this season.

It was a race that was later overshadowed by the death of a marshal who succumbed to his injuries following a freak accident in which he was run over by a recovery vehicle.

In terms of the title, Vettel ominously has a 34-point lead over Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso who managed to limit the damage by finishing runner-up ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel, however, is wary of how quickly a situation can turn, citing his own charge in the standings last season when he trailed Alonso by some margin before going on to claim his third crown.

"I was in a different position last year at this time, and I was able to catch up quite a lot towards the end. I had very strong races," said Red Bull star Vettel. "Fernando was a little bit unlucky here and there and we were able to come back and beat him.

"But this was 10 races from where we are now. There are so many things that can happen at any stage of the championship.

"Right now I'm happy to stand on the grid, focus on the race, trying to win. We will see later on if we are still in a strong position."

It proved to be third time lucky for Vettel after starting from pole in 2011 and again last season, only to finish second and fourth respectively.

On pole again, this time the victory was hardly ever in doubt from the moment he opened up a two-second gap at the end of the first lap.

There was a brush with a wall on lap 11 and a lapse in concentration on lap 52 when he ran through the first corner, but other than that he was never troubled.

In getting the monkey off his back, he added: "Finally I can tick this one off the list, so I am very proud of that.

"We've had good races here before, but it didn't come together to win, particularly two years ago when I was very close, only to lose it on the last lap. It was my mistake, but I made up for that today."

For Alonso, second was as much as he could do after starting sixth, ultimately coming out on top in a number of fascinating duels with Red Bull's Mark Webber and Hamilton.

Alonso said: "In the end second place is like a victory for us because we scored some points at the end of a difficult weekend."

It is the third time this year Hamilton has finished third on his debut campaign with Mercedes, knowing he needs more from his car and team to make a further step up the podium.

"The car's getting better, the guys are doing a fantastic job, so we just need to keep pushing to close the gap to these guys [Vettel and Alonso]," said Hamilton.

Vettel, meanwhile, led other drivers in paying tribute to the marshal, who has yet been unnamed.

"The work of marshals is not always seen, but it is vital to our sport and without their commitment, time and dedication, there would be no motorsport," Red Bull's race winner said on his website on Monday. "I am very, very sad to hear this news and my thoughts are with his family and friends," added the German.

The marshal, as yet unnamed, died in hospital from injuries sustained while removing the Sauber of Mexican rookie Esteban Gutierrez, who crashed out seven laps from the end of the race.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement that the track worker had dropped his radio and attempted to pick it up. In doing so, he stumbled and was hit and run over by the recovery vehicle.

The marshal was the third to die at a grand prix since the turn of the century but the first since Graham Beveridge was killed by a loose tyre that flew through a gap in the safety fence at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.

Italian fire marshal Paolo Ghislimberti died when he was hit by a wheel at the 2000 Italian Grand Prix at Monza, prompting a review of safety at race tracks and the introduction of improved measures to protect circuit workers.

Every Formula One ticket carries a warning that motorsport is dangerous but the fact that it had been more than a decade since the last fatality, despite marshals performing some of the riskiest roles, is testimony to the constant striving for safety.

The last driver fatality at a race weekend was Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna at Imola in 1994.

"My dearest condolences to the family of the marshal who lost his life today, our prayers for him & his family. RIP," Gutierrez wrote on his Twitter account.

"Shocked & saddened by the news that a marshal who is there to keep us safe has lost his life during our race today. Rest in peace my friend," said McLaren's Jenson Button, winner in Canada in 2011.

"Today there is nothing to celebrate. Terrible news arrive with the death of a marshal this race. Very sad. R.I.P," added Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, the double world champion who was runner-up to Vettel on Sunday.

While the marshal's death appeared a freak accident, there has long been concern about the use of such cranes while the race is still going on – but more from the point of view of driver safety.

Former racer Martin Brundle, now a commentator with Britain's Sky television, observed during Sunday's grand prix – before the accident with the marshal – that it might have been safer to leave the car where it was rather than hurrying to remove it.

Now-retired seven times world champion Michael Schumacher was fortunate to escape serious injury in Brazil in 2003 when a recovery crane was deployed during a rain-hit race and his Ferrari skidded off and almost crashed into it.


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