Sebastian Vettel has proved his mettle under the most trying conditions in the Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday at Interlagos, Sao Palo. At the end of the Abu Dhabi GP, earlier this month, this author posted a similar piece on these pages, citing the amazing progress that Vettel has made in recent times. But two races were still remaining in the season at that time and despite Vettel’s form, outcome in any F1 race could not have been predicted with any degree of precision for a variety of reasons. But Vettel finished the year by expectedly equaling two of F1’s most prestigious records. The brilliant German equaled Alberto Ascari’s 60-year old feat of winning nine straight races and also came at par with compatriot Michael Schumacher’s 13 win a single season.
Vettel knew perfectly well that winning an F1 event is not a piece of cake. With competitors zooming around at breakneck speeds through a pretty long total race distance over several laps, it is extremely creditable to consistently finish on top in such tournaments. The minimum race distance is 260 Kilometers in Monaco, while at all other international venues, it exceeds 300 Kilometers. Despite setbacks in the Australian, Chinese, Spanish, Monaco, British and Hungarian GPs, Sebastian Vettel kept his head on his shoulders, without losing focus.
Vettel also knows that F1 racing is not merely a test of one’s driving skills, since all top F1 drivers need to be extremely knowledgeable about their cars, the built-in electronics and the constantly changing F1 rules. In addition, they must be gifted with superb mental strength. He is also aware of the fact that F1 cars are built with sophisticated aerodynamic features, requiring great ability in acclimatizing oneself with such technicalities when negotiating laps. Vettel’s victory is creditable because every F1 driver has to develop quick familiarity with the changing nature of F1 tracks and local conditions. The racing circuits, around the world, vary in lengths and spreads with each being different in its format. This necessitates that drivers become quickly adept in executing complicated racing maneuvers, while negotiating the track during multiple laps. No two race circuits are similar and that makes F1 racing very unique. Most tracks have straight courses, hairpin and “S” curves and one lap is typically about 5 kilometers long. To cover the regulation distance of about 300 kilometers, the drivers have to go through between 50 to 70 laps. Such features require top aerobic fitness and internal body resistance because these races can cause a whiplash injury in spite of the most efficiently designed seat belt systems.
Of all sports, F1 racing is the world’s most expensive event, which has also been made exceedingly glamorous by organizers. The Motors Sports body based in Paris and called FIA, the Fédération Internationale d’Automobile, controls all F1 events, spread over the year, in several countries. The tremendous popularity of F1 racing is directly attributable to the great speeds at which the specially constructed cars are driven around the racing arena. The expensive nature of sports can be understood from the fact that each F1 race car is built and maintained at a cost of over 10 million dollars. But Vettel is lucky on that count. He is part of the red bull team, which largely takes care of his cars and the maintenance.
In the last eight races, the only driver who could really challenge Vettel was Mark Webber, his red bull team mate. In Interlagos, however, the final qualifying session was put off for a while, due to very heavy rains and despite the wet tracks, Vettel was able to take the pole position on Saturday. Before Interlagos, Sebastian Vettel won the US GP on November 17, without breaking sweat and led the pack all through the 56 laps in Austin, Texas to register his eighth consecutive win this year. A day earlier he had literally snatched the pole position from Mark Webber. After Vettel took the checkered flag at Belgium Grand Prix, he has not looked back. He followed the Belgian triumph with wins in Italy, Singapore, Korea, Japan, India and Abu Dhabi.
When the race began at Interlagos, Vettel was overtaken by Nico Rosberg at the first turn. But he quickly regained his ground with a smart move on the inside of Rosberg at the first turn. Another time, when Vettel could have been threatened, was at his slow pit-stop but he was lucky that the next driver, Mark Webber was far behind. For the first time in three days the tracks were dry at Interlagos but just as the race was coming to an end, it started drizzling once again.
The Brazilian GP also marked the last F1 appearance for Australian Mark Webber, who finished his swan song with the second position behind team mate Vettel. Because Vettel and Webber have not been in the best of personal terms, there were no show of emotions, even when they stood close to each other during the ceremonies. This was the only solemn moment at Interlagos.