F1 Monaco Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel hopes to celebrate Red Bull century with first victory of the season as champions close in on Mercedes

Red Bull's practice times suggested they are closer to the runaway leaders on the slower street circuit of Monte Carlo

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his 100th grands prix with Red Bull this weekend and hopes to mark the occasion by uncorking champagne on the most-coveted podium in Formula One on Sunday afternoon.

Vettel's 99 previous grands prix with the Milton Keynes-based marque have so far yielded 38 victories and four world titles, however, win number 39 will perhaps require something special to happen.

Certainly Red Bull suggested they are closer to the dominant Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg following the opening practice sessions around the streets of the principality on Thursday.

With power less of a requirement - and Mercedes have shown they have that in abudance - and high downforce instead the key ingredient, Red Bull may yet draw closer to Hamilton and Rosberg.

The duo still lead the way, separated themselves by just 0.032secs, with Vettel's team-mate Daniel Ricciardo just over two tenths of a second adrift after the opening 90-minute session.

Rain affected FP2 in which Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was quickest, albeit two tenths of a second down on Hamilton's time from FP1 as the circuit finally dried and came alive in the dying minutes.


Vettel ultimately finished third, just over half a second back in a car in which he now feels far more comfortable.

Although Vettel knows Mercedes remain the team to beat, he has not given up hope of finally ending their run of five successive wins and four consecutive one-twos.

"Mercedes were very quick in morning and we see that usually, come Saturday, they are able to pick up their pace, so we'll try to do the same," said Vettel.

"Potentially we are a little closer here, but you know at the moment it's all guessing.

"The big advantage on this track would be that there's not that many straights, but we have to wait and see.

"We were obviously limited on what we could learn in terms of pace and range.

"We know it's quite important to qualify in the front here, so if there is a chance then we have to use it."

As far as Vettel's career goes, now in his sixth year with Red Bull, he concedes the time has flown by, and "it has been more successful and better than we ever expected".

Looking back on his 99 grands prix with Red Bull, Vettel added: "In 2009 it was a surprise to have a really competitive car.

"In my first year (with the team) I made mistakes I had to do, as did the team, but it was part of the process of growing together.

"It was very painful to get beaten in the fight for the championship, but after that it has been quite phenomenal.

"It was something that was impossible to expect and very difficult to target because there were so many things that could have happened."

As to when he will taste success again, however, he said: "This year looks a bit different to previous years.

"But then again we're only five races in, we know the team is strong, and we have been through a lot in our 99 races together.

"I am confident we will get stronger, but the question is how soon."