Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on course to confirm fourth double title


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The Independent Online

No driver other than Sebastian Vettel has led a lap of a grand prix here. He arrives in New Delhi with a 90-point lead in the world championship and five consecutive victories behind him since the end of August. So it's small wonder that he is the favourite to clinch a fourth consecutive world championship crown by winning the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Those are the immutable facts, and based on practice here when he was comfortably fastest in both sessions ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, the prospects look more than just promising. Frankly, it's hard to envisage any other team winning right now. And if Vettel does win, it won't matter what sole title rival Fernando Alonso does, the battle will be over.

Nico Rosberg, a pole position contender on a regular basis early in the season, is just one rival who expects Red Bull to be unbeatable this weekend, and that the best Mercedes can hope for is third place.

"For us third is doable," he said after practice. "There's a lot of work ahead of us tonight but I'm quite confident. But pole is out of the question because the Red Bulls are too fast, especially Vettel."

As Rosberg finished the day sixth, team-mate Lewis Hamilton jumped up to fourth after struggling in the morning. "We made some good progress over the two practice sessions today," he said. "This morning wasn't so good but we completed a lot of laps this afternoon. It's difficult to get the set-up right here and this circuit is pretty tough on the tyres so I think everyone was struggling with the soft compound.

"Our car feels pretty good at this early stage but there are definitely some areas we can improve overnight. We're working towards a strong qualifying performance tomorrow afternoon, ideally on the second row, and then hopefully a place on the podium, that would be nice."

The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, remained his habitually cautious self despite the clear prospect of cementing their fourth title in a row in both the drivers' and constructors' championships. "I think that should we achieve a quadruple double world championship success that would be an amazing feat for every single member of the team against such illustrious opposition," he said, "but those thoughts are not in our mind. It's never done until it's mathematically impossible for anyone else to win. So as a team we are focused on getting the most out of this weekend and the championship tables will take care of themselves. Talk of celebrations is premature, because we haven't got there yet."

After slight concerns on Thursday following a complaint to the supreme court by Amil Kamur who alleges non-payments of taxes on last year's race by the organisers, Jaypee Sports International, the Grand Prix will go ahead without further interruption. The court, which takes a dim view of attempts to disrupt public events, heard Kamur's petition, but elected to delay the process until a later date.