With triumph at Indian GP, Vettel becomes youngest ever to win four successive titles; moves level with Prost (4) and behind Schumacher (7) and Fangio (5) in all-time list
Before the Indian Grand Prix, only three Formula One drivers had won the world championship four times or more — Juan Manuel Fangio (five in the 50s), Alain Prost (four in the 80s and 90s) and Michael Schumacher (seven in the 90s and 2000s). At the Buddh International Circuit on Sunday, another name was added to this exclusive list, Sebastian Vettel, as the German completed a wire-to-wire win — from pole to the chequered flag, with the fastest lap to boot — to seal his fourth consecutive drivers’ title.
That the Red Bull driver would win the championship was never in doubt. But knowing how fiercely competitive F1 is, he was expected to be given a run for his money by teammate Mark Webber, who was fourth on the starting grid, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, his only remaining title competitor (even if only in a manner of speaking). Both had a strategy wherein they had planned to gain track position early on, clock as many laps as they could on their harder tyres while Vettel, running on the softs, would make a pitstop. The best-laid plans, of mice and men...
Alonso hit Webber just after the lights went out and then made contact with Jenson Button. From P8, he was down to 11th. Vettel, sensing his chance, dived into the pits right away; and Alonso, having no choice, followed for a nose job. The remaining 59 laps were, for all practical purposes, 59 victory laps. But the German never took his foot off the pedal, even as Webber retired after his car stalled due to a faulty alternator, to make it a hat-trick of wins in front of an adoring crowd in India. Vettel thrilled them with a crowd-pleasing stunt after taking the chequered flag, and moved them when he kneeled before his car and kissed the ground.
“How do I feel? I’m overwhelmed. One of the best days of my life so far,” he said during the presentation ceremony, struggling to give words to his emotions.
In the last nine laps, Vettel’s team, anxious and extra cautious after the Webber incident in the 40th, told him not to use the drinks bottle, lest it interfered with the mechanics of the car. It’s