Asked what it takes to beat Sebastian Vettel when he is in the sort of form that he is in — five wins in the last five races — his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber said: “It needs a perfect weekend — pole, perfect race, perfect strategy, perfect everything to put him off the top step.” That, he added, has got to be the plan. The trouble is, there is only one man who seems capable of producing such perfection, Vettel himself, and he did so on Friday.
Usually the three practice sessions (FP1, FP2 on Fridays and FP3 on Saturday) are when the drivers don’t really intend to go full throttle. It’s a time when they get a feel of the track and reinforce the racing line, even as their teams collect valuable data which is then used to formulate strategy for the qualifying session and the race. There’s not much incentive in pushing pedal to metal.
This relatively relaxed approach towards these sessions may explain why these have been the only times of late when Vettel’s competitors have gotten (or, more appropriately, have been allowed to get) a whiff of his ‘Hungry Heidi’.
That said, there was no such luck for the chasing pack on Friday, as the triple world champion flew off the blocks, and by the time the chequered flag was waved in the hazy afternoon, his name was on top of both FP1 and FP2 time sheets. His performance, 1:25.722s in FP2, masked the fact the car experienced a glitch in the afternoon.
“It was good, it felt good. We’ve been able to run through our whole programme, even though in the afternoon we had a minor issue with the soft tyres. I lost much of the grip on the rear and we took the time to go through all possible causes and when we got out again everything seemed fine,” he said in an interview with the official F1 website.
Vettel is likely to seal his fourth consecutive world title in India. Only two drivers in Formula One history, Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, have done that, but Vettel, at 26, could be the youngest to achieve the feat. If the enormity of the impending achievement is weighing on his mind, he is doing a pretty good job of hiding it. “I try not to think too much of the consequences of the result on