Every so often, a sports star comes along and redefines the realms of possibility in their discipline. Records are set and they stand for days, months, even for years. But inevitably the boundaries are pushed further outward, into a class once thought impossible to reach.
Michael Schumacher once ruled the motor racing world, a giant of his sport and whose legacy of seven world championship titles, some said, would never be equaled. Yet just nine years since his last triumph, another, younger German stands on the brink of his fourth.
Vettel has taken Formula One by force. The reigning world champion took a significant step toward yet another title crown.
Sebastian Vettel has taken Formula One by force since he blitzed his way to victory in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix at Monza. On Sunday, the reigning world champion took a significant step toward yet another title crown and surpassing the records of his compatriot.
The Red Bull driver started the race from pole position and commanded the event from the off, decimating his rivals with a show of force that does not bode well for the likes of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton —Vettel’s closest competitors.
With a lead of eleven seconds quickly established on the fast, flowing circuit that has become a temple of worship for loyal Ferrari fans, Vettel could afford to relax a little as the battle behind him unfolded. Teammate Mark Webber, competing in his very last race in Europe, had been passed off the line by Felipe Massa in his Ferrari and was quickly hounded by Alonso in the sister Scuderia.
The Australian prevailed in his battle with Massa, but lost out to the Spaniard who exploited the pace of his Ferrari F138 to the max in his bid to get closer to Vettel. Down the order, things were going less well for key title players Lotus and Mercedes, who were struggling to bounce back from a poor showing in qualifying on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen attempted a two-stop strategy in pit tactics while their peers went for the more conventional one-stop, but the gamble only paid off for Hamilton as he progressed to 9th place at the end of the race.
Vettel, Alonso, Webber and Massa locked out the top four positions, but the real star of the day was Nico Hulkenberg in his Sauber car. While something of a damp squib in the 2013 season, the young German with his Swiss-made car were on top form throughout the weekend and claimed a vital ten points for the cash-strapped team. He was so good that he beat Mercedes driver Rosberg in the battle over 5th and 6th places, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, Lotus man Romain Grosjean, Lewis Hamilton and McLaren’s Jenson Button who scraped a single point for 10th place.
Booing on the podium directed at winner Vettel was a sour end to what had been a fantastic display of driving, but the German didn’t mind too much as he left Monza with a comfortable 53-point margin over Alonso. With 175 points remaining, Hamilton and Raikkonen are still within mathematical contention of the world championship, but nothing short of a meltdown for Red Bull will deny Vettel the chance of wrapping up his fourth successive title sometime before Austin’s Grand Prix in November.