Vettel a step away from pinnacle

Red Bull driver is all set to be crowned for the fourth time as action begins at the Buddh circuit
Last Updated 24 October 2013, 18:08 IST

The musty air of a potentially inevit­able end filled the paddock on Thursday with the organisers of the Indian Grand Prix not offering more than a hostile ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Smiles that were plastered on their faces during the inaugural and the second edition of event have become a mere comforting memory.

It is an understandable state of affairs given that the Grand Prix will not take place next year and may never return but the organisers may as well make the most of what lies ahead and also rejoice in the fact that the Buddh International Circuit may get to witness the coronation of the king for the first time.

The king in question is Sebastian Vettel and even though it seems like ‘coronations’ are a mere walk in the park for the 26-year-old who already has three titles to his name, it will be special, for this will be his fourth.

In the process, he will become only the third driver after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher to win four titles in a row and only the fourth to win four titles ever.

Red Bull Racing’s Vettel, who won his fifth successive race and ninth overall in Japan, has extended his drivers’ championship lead over second-placed Fernando Alonso by 90 points and needs to finish fifth or above to apply finishing touches to his dominant showing this season.

Impending as it may seem, a fifth place finish is not the easiest thing to achieve when the 21 other drivers are fighting for the same spot. That said, Vettel has won both the races held at the BIC and has been in rip-roaring form throughout the latter half of this season.

In a nutshell, nothing and no one can possibly come in the way of Vettel sealing the deal. It’s a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ but if there is one thing ‘Baby Schumi’ would like to do is go all out and win the race and ease himself of the burden with only three races left in the season post this weekend.

While the race itself is the feature, three free practice sessions -- two on Friday and one on Saturday -- and the qualifying session on Saturday will provide the basis for who goes on to do what.

Free practice sessions themselves do little in terms of grid positions (qualifying on Saturday will take care of that bit) but they give teams the right platform to set their cars up for the task at hand. And with a track as interesting as the BIC and the weather being sultry, drivers will need all the time in a car to acclimatise themselves to what they will be forced to deal with during the race.

Alonso in particular would love to come out fastest during free practice and maybe even head the grid at the end of qualifying. The Spaniard would love nothing more than a chance to close in on Vettel even if it does little to deny the German of his moment of glory.

The other driver who made it abundantly clear that he is looking to end Vettel’s stunning run, is his team-mate Mark Webber. The Australian, who will leave the team to drive in the World Endurance Championship for the 2014 season and will be replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, has not yet won a race this season despite coming close on many occasions. A win at the BIC will be perfect, but like Vettel, he too has his share of drivers to try and keep away from.

The one that springs to mind immediatly is the stoic Kimi Raikkonen. The Lotus driver hasn’t quite justified the hype around him this season but the ‘Iceman’ is never too far away. 

Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean and Nico Rosberg too are in the fray to topple Vettel, but that has been the case all through this season and the previous four. If the past is to go by, Vettel is three days away from doing what many -- including himself -- thought impossible.

The games have begun but they don’t mean much, given that the trophy has almost already returned to its owner.

(Published 24 October 2013, 18:08 IST)

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