With Sebastian Vettel’s fourth successive Formula One title now just a formality, the more intriguing question is whether the Red Bull driver can go on to match a record that has stood for 60 years. The 26-year-old should become the sport’s youngest quadruple champion in India next week with the German 90 points clear of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, the only man still mathematically in contention, and four races remaining.
After winning Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel needs only to finish fifth at the Buddh Circuit to be sure of the title and will not need to score another point if Alonso fails to finish first or second. The champion has won the last five races and is on track to close out the season with nine successive victories, a feat only one driver has ever managed — Italian Alberto Ascari with Ferrari in 1952-53.
“Sebastian has won every race since the summer break, which is an incredible achievement. There’s still four races to go,” Red Bull principal Christian Horner told reporters. “I don’t think any of us could have imagined that he would have had this run of success. The way he’s driving at the moment is quite supreme.”
Vettel is only the sixth driver to win five times in succession, the most recent being Michael Schumacher with Ferrari in 2004 when the seven-times champion went on to win seven in a row. Schumacher also holds the record of 13 wins in a season, another milestone that Vettel can match after taking his current tally for the year to nine with a performance that Horner hailed as exemplary.
Asked whether he would rather join Schumacher and the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio as the only drivers to have won four successive titles, or win every race on the calendar, Vettel said he preferred the second option.
“You know, I love racing,” he said. “It’s incredible what has happened over the last couple of years but nothing has changed. I love the challenge.”