x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Vettel seems invincible as F1 champion takes Turkish Grand Prix

An easy win with teammate Webber in suit caps good race for Red Bull while Ferrari's Alonso takes first podium of the season.

The second-placed Mark Webber, left, and and teammate Sebastian Vettel jubilate on the podium at Istanbul.
The second-placed Mark Webber, left, and and teammate Sebastian Vettel jubilate on the podium at Istanbul.

ISTANBUL// How it must pain Formula One’s decision makers that at the precise moment their new regulations successfully produce an environment conducive for overtaking, one car and one driver combine to generate such unsurpassable pace that nobody can get close to either man or machine.

Sebastian Vettel, strapped up comfortably in the cockpit of his imperious Red Bull Racing RB7, cruised to a third win from four races yesterday at the Turkish Grand Prix as a host of micro-battles blossomed behind him.

The defending world champion had said on Saturday, shortly after securing his fifth consecutive pole position, that he hoped “all the action is going on behind us” and under a chilly blue sky at Istanbul Park, the 23-year-old’s wish was granted. Whether he had made his wish upon the falling star that is Michael Schumacher remained unclear last night.

Vettel, the sport’s youngest world champion, performed flawlessly to pass the chequered flag 8.8 seconds ahead of teammate Mark Webber, who in finishing second captured the constructors’ champions their first one-two finish since Brazil last November.

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari fought his way up from fifth on the grid to finish in third.

“We had a very good, very smooth race, and were in pretty much control from start to finish,” said Vettel, whose preparations for the race had been hindered by a shunt during Friday’s free practice. “I can’t complain and am very happy.

“We lacked some practice after crashing the car badly on Friday and all the guys helped a lot to fix it. It meant a lot of extra hours for them, but I think this has made up for it.”

However, while there may have been only one positional switch among the final top six from how they had lined up on the grid, the action and sheer amount of overtaking was gripping.

Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes-GP driver, eventually succumbed his third place to Alonso, but not before boldly passing Webber from the start and later, having slipped back, enjoying an exhilarating high-speed battle with both Felipe Massa and Jenson Button.

Webber, having himself completed a magical manoeuvre to pass Alonso with five laps remaining, admitted it would have been “very difficult” to beat Vettel, but added he was never overly worried when he immediately fell behind Rosberg.

“It wasn’t ideal, but no panic these days,” the Australian said. “With last year’s regulations when passing was very difficult, you might be panicking a bit more, but no huge panic this time.”

Once again, tyres proved crucial with seven of the 10 points scorers opting for a four-stop strategy after suffering massive degradation on Turn Eight, the calendar’s longest and most physically challenging corner.

Button, who chose to pit only three times, found himself defenceless on older, more worn tyres in the final stages as he slipped to sixth.

Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal at Button’s McLaren-Mercedes, said “three stops was probably a stop too few”.

“Jenson was the quickest of the three-stoppers, but with hindsight it probably wasn’t the optimal strategy and consequently he struggled a bit – through no fault of his own,” he said.

The result means Red Bull have opened a gap of 33 points on rivals McLaren in the constructors’ championship, while Vettel leads

Lewis Hamilton by 34 points in the chase for the drivers’ title. The German, however, has no plans of complacency.

“It’s good to get as many points as you can at every single race,” Vettel said. “But we have seen how quickly things can change.

The day you start to think you are unbeatable is, for sure, the day you get beaten.”