x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Victorious Vettel has to wait until Japan for his second world title

Sebastian Vettel needs just one point from the remaining five races of the Formula One season to seal his second title.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates winning in Singapore.
Sebastian Vettel celebrates winning in Singapore.

SINGAPORE // Flawless, immaculate and unerring, Sebastian Vettel's performance under Singapore's stiflingly hot night sky was as close to perfect as you are ever likely to see.

Yet the ultimate reward will have to wait another two weeks; Red Bull Racing's 24 year old is not yet - officially at least - a two-time world champion.

Having lead the race for its entirety, Vettel's victory could have secured him a second successive drivers' title were it not for Jenson Button finishing directly behind him in his McLaren-Mercedes. Mark Webber, Vettel's teammate, finished third.

Button now remains the only man mathematically capable of catching the German, although with Vettel requiring only one point from the final five races, wrapping his second championship up is now mere formality. The next race is in Japan in two weeks.

"I feel capable, but I still have to do it," said an ever-prudent Vettel when asked about his chances of securing the title at Suzuka.

"Obviously, with the races we have had so far, it shouldn't be a big problem. Statistically, the chances are with us, but it's not over until it's over."

Vettel won his maiden championship on the final day of the 2010 season at Yas Marina Circuit, but because his success was dependent on other drivers' finishing positions, he only discovered his fate when Guillaume Rocquelin, his engineer, informed him over the team radio after passing the chequered flag.

Several factors had to be fulfilled last night for Vettel to be crowned in Singapore and he had maintained all weekend that he was adopting a similarly fatalistic approach and not taking notice of the requisites.

"Our target was to win [the race] and it's good to achieve that," he said.

"I made it quite clear before the race that it's not important where the other people were.

"Crossing the line, I didn't know if it was enough or not - it was a little bit similar to Abu Dhabi.

"Obviously hoping for it, but I didn't know where people had to finish."

With the equations far simpler for Suzuka - if Vettel finishes ninth or above, he wins the title - he is confident he will not require his engineer to keep him informed.

"I think the next race I am smart enough to figure it out myself," he said, smiling.

Even if Vettel was not to finish in Suzuka, he would still take the title if Button does not win the race, something the Briton has not done in 11 attempts there.

A combination of emotions that encompassed the champion's first win at Marina Bay Street Circuit, a realisation that his second title is all but secure and an appreciation that the two draining hours of driving in sweltering humidity was complete, resulted in tears on the podium.

"It was a bit of it all," he said, before adding with smirk: "And I had something in my eye."

It was as dominant a performance as has been seen all season; a remarkable achievement considering it was the Red Bull driver's ninth victory of the year.

Having started on pole for the 11th time from 14 races, Vettel had quickly built a gap of 2.5 seconds at the front by the end of the first lap. And it continued to grow by the minute.

Five seconds clear after four laps, seven seconds after five laps, 8.2 seconds after six. By the ninth lap, he was 9.9 seconds clear. It was as impressive as it was formidable.

When Michael Schumacher crashed his Mercedes into a barrier after 29 laps, the safety car appeared for the sixth time in Singapore's four-race history.

Vettel watched as his lead gradually disappeared, but when the race resumed, he quickly returned to what he does best. Within two laps of the restart, he was 8.9 second clear. With only a few laps remaining and Vettel holding an unassailable lead, he eased off and Button closed the gap, but the victory was never in doubt. He crossed the line 1.7 seconds ahead of the field.

"Perfect day in the office," Vettel said. "The speed of the car was phenomenal; it surprised even myself. At stages we were going more than a second quicker than the cars behind. Towards the end, it got tricky with traffic, but we had plenty of room and I was in control."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae


Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Gary Meenaghan on @GMeenaghan