Youngest, Fastest, Strongest!

Sebastian Vettel joins the all-time greats with another imperious drive; Red Bull champions

Youngest, Fastest, Strongest!

Sebastian Vettel entered rarified zone, becoming only the third driver in the history of Formula One to win four consecutive titles.

The 26-year-old German looked his age for the first time this weekend when he leapt in joy atop the podium, which he shared with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who finished second and third-placed Romain Grosjean of Lotus, after winning the Indian Grand Prix for the third successive time at the Buddh International Circuit on a hazy Sunday evening.

Prior to that wild celebration, where he guzzled champagne by the mouthful, Vettel did something that drove the fans wild.

After having driven one of the most strategically perfect races in recent memory and helping his team to their fourth consecutive constructors’ crown and putting himself up there with the greats, Vettel crossed the finish line and instinctively his hands reached towards his eyes to wipe tears only to find that his helmet came in the way.

He held on and went on a victory lap, taking in everything that the crowd had to offer and, perhaps, out of respect for the turn out, put on a show for them.

Arriving at the final corner, Vettel was asked to pull into the parc ferme as usual but he was in no mood to comply this time. He ignored the race engineers plea and drove up to the finish line and performed a ‘doughnut’ spin before standing on top of the car and acknowledging the crowd. He then knelt in front of the car and kissed its nose before running off towards the Grand Stand and throwing his racing gloves into the front row.

“I am speechless,” said Vettel, still gulping down champagne, in the post-race press conference. “It will be a long, long time before it sinks in.”

The celebrations were a bit loud in comparison to what has been witnessed in the past but this was perhaps as a good a time to put it all out there. After all, it isn’t often that one gets to experience the feeling of winning four world championship titles in a row.

In doing so, the German, who won the title with 322 drivers’ championship points, joined an illustrious list that contains two of the greatest ever drivers -- Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher -- and also caught up with Alain Prost, one of the four drivers to have won four or more titles in the history of the sport.

He also became the youngest driver to arrive at the landmark. The 26-year-old overtook Fangio (46 at the time of winning his fourth), Schumacher (34) and Prost (38).

While records and celebrations hogged the limelight, the race itself was one that a connoisseur would swear to have enjoyed as the ‘tyre-strategy war’ hit the roof. Though Vettel had effectively won the race by the end of the 33rd lap, the laps that preceeded were touched by his genius.

With Fernando Alonso crushing his front-wing against Mark Webber’s rear-end in the first corner of the race, the Spaniard was effectively out of Vettel’s way. Alonso, second on the drivers’ championship, needed 16 points more than Vettel in this race to delay the German’s march but that was not to be as he joined the grid in 14th place after pitting and could only manage an eleventh place finish.

Vettel’s gamble

Vettel, in an advantageous position after his biggest competitor bowed out, opted to dive into the pits right after the first lap to swap his softs (tyres) for mediums. He slipped all the way down to 17th but knew all along that he had enough pace to overcome the rest of the field who were going to hit the pits sooner or later.

His gamble paid off. He climbed his way up and by lap 20, he was on race leader and team-mate Webber’s tail. When Webber slipped into the pits in the 32nd lap for a tyre change, Vettel got ahead and remained there until the end.

It was a disappointing end to Webber, who looked set to complete a Red Bull one-two but gear-box issues forced him to retire in the 40th lap. Webber’s face said it all.

But everything including the fact that this was the Australian’s last Indian GP was put to shade soon as India soaked in the coronation of a F1 champion for the first time. Perhaps, for the last time!

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