x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Vettel leads by example in Spain

Points margin is unimportant for Red Bull racing driver, as Webber takes blame for losing second spot.

Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel lead from start to finish at the Valencia Street Circuit yesterday.
Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel lead from start to finish at the Valencia Street Circuit yesterday.

VALENCIA, Spain // Sebastian Vettel claimed his 16th race win yesterday at the European Grand Prix, but it was far removed from the thrilling spectacles Formula One has served up in recent months.

Following a magnificent Monaco Grand Prix last month and an epic four-hour Canadian race two weeks ago, the Formula One fraternity arrived in the south of Spain hoping for more of the same.

Yet, under a baking sun, the Valencia Street Circuit proved, even with the sport's new regulations, a procession remains a possibility.

There were no collisions, no penalties and very few overtaking manoeuvres.

Such was the lack of excitement that for only the fourth time in the sport's history every car in the field finished.

"It looked like a boring race," said Vettel, the world champion, after coasting, from pole position, to his sixth win in eight races in his Red Bull Racing car this season.

The German crossed the line more than 10 seconds before second-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, while Mark Webber, Vettel's teammate, was a further 17 seconds back.

Vettel won here last year, but following a rare mistake in Canada that allowed Jenson Button to usurp him at the top of the podium two weeks ago, hope had generated that the chase for the world championship might be about to open up.

Instead, Vettel did what he does best and now leads the drivers' standings by 77 points - and is only three race wins off bettering his entire total for the 2010 season, which saw him become the sport's youngest champion with his victory in Abu Dhabi.

"I wasn't good at maths," Vettel said when asked about his points lead. "To be honest, I don't look at the scoreboard much. It's good to know that obviously we are in the lead, but by how many points I don't really care.

"Of course, our target is to be in the lead and make sure we stay there, but the most important race to lead the championship is after the last one."

Vettel has maintained throughout this season's eight races so far that he takes his championship charge race by race and he reiterated that approach yesterday. Such a modus operandi rules out the possibility of him easing off the gas and lessening his chances of crashing, but he insisted he would have it no other way.

"We have had a phenomenal start to the season and to continue that way is our target, but we have to go step by step and take every single race as it comes," he said. "We don't have to take too many risks, but the target is to win races.

"We try always to achieve our optimum and if we have a chance to win then we have to take it. If the day comes and we might struggle and not be competitive enough and the car is only maybe good enough for third, then we have to finish third and not seventh."

Webber, who ran in second place until pitting early and being passed by Alonso, said his performance was, up until his final pit stop, "probably my best race of the year" and was quick to shoulder the blame for slipping back a position.

"It was my fault, not the team's," he said. "I was worried about Fernando coming underneath me around the stops and it was not known how the medium tyre would perform on the out lap. For sure, it is not as good as the softs, but is it better than an old soft?

"That was the risk I decided to take and I lost out. Fernando stayed out for a few more laps and also I came out behind a little bit of traffic, so it was my fault we missed second."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae