Vettel, 24, Becomes Youngest Driver to Win Two Straight Formula One Titles
Sebastian Vettel yesterday became the youngest ever two-time Formula One champion, securing the drivers’ title with four races of the season remaining.
The 24-year-old Red Bull driver, who only needed one point to guarantee the defense of his title, finished third in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
“This year we’ve always been one step ahead,” the German told reporters after the race. “In a way the hardest thing is after winning last year to go out and do it again.”
Vettel started in pole position for the 12th time this season, underscoring the superiority of his Red Bull car over Ferrari and McLaren. He was, though, unable to take his 10th race victory of 2011 at a circuit where he won the past two seasons.
Drink-maker Red Bull GmbH spent $675 million on bankrolling the team between 2005 and 2009, according to filings by the team’s parent company based in Milton Keynes, England. Since then it has been rewarded with two straight driver’s titles and is closing on another constructors’ championship with a 130- point lead over McLaren.
Team Principal Christian Horner said there is more to come from Vettel.
“It’s phenomenal what he’s achieved in such a short space of time,” Horner told the British Broadcasting Corp. “He is continuing to get stronger and to evolve as a driver and a person.”
The German, who last season became the youngest winner in the series, which was first staged in 1950, had to defend a move from Button at the start of the race. As he cut across to defend the position it prompted his McLaren rival to question whether Vettel should receive a penalty.
Button claimed the lead on lap 21 following the second round of tire stops for him and Vettel, emerging ahead of the Red Bull driver on exiting the pit lane.
The safety car was deployed soon after, but Button was able to push out his lead as racing restarted. Following a third pit stop, the Briton was third and did not regain the lead until 12 laps remaining.
Alonso, a two-time world champion, pressed Button in the final stages and finished only 1.16 seconds back, with Vettel also close behind.
Hamilton, who passed Button early on, suffered a puncture which prompted an early pit stop on lap eight. He later had a clash with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, but avoided a penalty unlike two weeks ago in Singapore when the two drivers also collided.
Race for Second
Button’s win gives him 210 points in the standings, eight more than Alonso, as they battle to finish behind Vettel, who suggested his run to the title has not been easy.
“It was extremely tight this year, perhaps tighter than some people thought,” Vettel said. “These guys know how to drive.”
Vettel has never qualified lower than third on the grid in 2011 and only failed to finish on the podium once -- at his home Grand Prix in Germany.
He is the ninth driver to take back-to-back titles, the first since Alonso’s second triumph in 2006. This season’s success is more comfortable than last year when Vettel won the final race to seal the title.
Vettel and Horner said they don’t plan to ease off in the last four races.
“There is a lot of pressure falling off but there is a lot of pressure on us because naturally we want to win,” Vettel told the BBC. There is another chance to win “in the next races and those chances we want to use.”
The season continues in Yeongam, South Korea next weekend.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at at email@example.com
Bloomberg reserves the right to edit or remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.