Sebastian Vettel has turned up the heat on Fernando Alonso in the race for the Formula 1 world-drivers’ title. Vettel led from start to finish at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, something the defending world champion is looking at as a positive.
Vettel said he and his team have been “trying to step in the right direction” since Formula 1 competition resumed after the summer break. In the last four races, he has a second-place finish to go along with the last two wins. The only blemish came at the Italian Grand Prix, where he failed to finish. After the Japanese Grand Prix, Vettel said he is cautiously optimistic and taking it one race at a time in his chase for a third-straight championship.
“I won the race, so I know I scored more points than anybody else today but you don’t know what happens next weekend,” he said. “I think there’s still a long way to go and we have to focus on every single race and try to do our best and then we will see if it’s good enough.”
Vettel was in control all afternoon. He started the Japanese Grand Prix in the pole position and finished the race 20 seconds in front of Felipe Massa and 24.5 seconds ahead of Kamui Kobayashi. The winner said the weekend’s events couldn’t have gone any better.
“You come across these kinds of races or weekends very, very rarely,” he said. “I think we had a fantastic race. When you have a dream about how your race car should be, that’s exactly what you’re wishing for.”
As racing fortunes would have it, Alonso’s Japanese Grand Prix was over before it really had a chance to start. A collision with Kimi Räikkönen punctured Alonso’s left-rear tire and put an end to the afternoon.
“To finish a race like this at the very first corner is really a shame,” said Alonso. “Today, we were very unlucky.”
The back-to-back wins in Singapore and Japan have placed the two-time defending champion within four points of Alonso in the standings. Vettel has made up 35 points in the last two races to bring him too close for comfort, according to the current drivers’ championship leader.
“This result has practically wiped out the advantage I had before, but if I had been told at the start of the season that we would have been in this situation five races from the end, I’d have happily signed up for it,” Alonso said. “Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five grand prix. The aim will be to score at least one point more (than the other championship contenders).”
At this point of the season, the standings can change in a flash as the F1 scoring system allows for a maximum of 25 points per race. While the two leaders battle each other for Formula 1 supremacy, Räikkönen sits in third place in the standings, ready to take advantage of any miscue. He is 37 behind Alonso and 33 points back of Vettel.
Formula 1 teams remain in the Orient for Korean Grand Prix, in Yeongam on Oct. 14, the fifth to last race on the season calendar.