Vettel approaches complete F1 dominance with fourth title


Sebastian Vettel has been undefeated since the summer break ended. Not since the Hungarian Grand Prix in July has anyone else had stood on the top step of the podium.

The scale of Vettel’s success invites comparisons with the peaks of dominance achieved by drivers like Michael Schumacher, Jim Clark and Alberto Ascari.

With ten wins under his belt this year and three remaining, Vettel could tie Schumacher’s record of winning 13 races in a season (achieved in 2004, when there was one fewer event on the calendar).

His six consecutive wins means he could equal Schumacher and Ascari’s record winning seven consecutive races. Ascari actually went further – he won nine consecutive starts in 1952 and 1953, missing one of the races – but Vettel is on course to match that 60-year-old record.

This kind of sustained success is not unprecedented but it is extremely rare. For Vettel to do it at a time when the technical rules are tighter than ever makes it especially impressive.

Ascari typically won races by a minute or more as Ferrari’s 500 was the class of the field at a time when the championship was briefly run to F2 rules.

In 2004 Schumacher enjoyed virtually bespoke tires from Bridgestone and had unlimited testing to hone them to his exact specifications. Vettel, like everyone else in the field, gets what he’s given.

The mid-season change in tire construction (on safety grounds following the explosions seen at Silverstone) are probably part of the explanation for Red Bull’s step forward. Yes, Vettel was already ahead in the championship before then and Hamilton won the first race on the new tires, but the RB9 seems to have extracted more from them than any other car.

But Vettel knows these times won’t last forever. The coming overhaul of the technical regulations represents the biggest challenge to his four-year F1 supremacy so far, as he acknowledged after claiming the title yesterday:

“It’s a big, big, big project waiting for us next year. I think teams like Mercedes, Ferrari spend a lot of time thinking of new ideas. It’s a new car, it’s a new engine so it will be an incredibly big challenge.”

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force has another spectacular motor explosion

Photo courtesy NHRA
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Legendary NHRA Funny Car driver John Force endured yet another spectacular motor explosion – his third in the NHRA’s first three national event races – during Friday’s qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida.

It’s the kind of consistency the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ could do without.

The 68-year-old Force came to Gainesville hoping to break the jinx that saw him endure explosions in both the season-opening Winternationals and the second race of the season in Phoenix.

Both motor explosions sent Force to the hospital for examination before he returned to the race track.

Friday, even though the motor in his Chevrolet Camaro blew up again (in the second round of qualifying), at least this time, Force didn’t wind up in the hospital.

He did have his right hand bandaged from a cut suffered in the explosion, but did not have to go to the hospital this time.

He even joked about not having to add yet another ambulance bill to the nearest Gainesville hospital.

But the explosion still proved costly.

“That was another body and that hurts the financial (bottomline),” Force said. “I was out $500,000 to $600,000, and now we are probably out $800,000, going on a million. In drag racing, you have to be tough.”

He ended the day qualifying 14th, not a very comfortable position with two more rounds of qualifying set for Saturday.

Force continues to be mystified why the motors keep exploding.

“I really thought we had it, I thought we were there,” Force said. “In the first round we drove it 500 feet and shut it off. It looked great. We ran it again that run and I was only going to drive it 800 feet even if we didn’t make The Show.”

Force will attempt to improve his qualifying spot during Saturday’s final two rounds to make Sunday’s eliminations.

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