Sebastian Vettel closes in on his third successive Formula One world title


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The Independent Online

Sebastian Vettel is hoping the highlight of his season is yet to come as he closes in on his third successive Formula One world title.

On the occasion of his 100th grand prix, Vettel can this weekend join legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to claim three championships in a row.

The 25-year-old Red Bull star needs to finish 15 points clear of nearest rival Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari on F1's return to the United States after a five-year absence.

The Circuit of The Americas, the purpose-built facility just outside Austin in Texas, stages the potential championship-decider, with just 10 points separating the duo.

A run of four consecutive victories, followed by a stunning drive from the pitlane to third in Abu Dhabi 10 days ago, has left Vettel within touching distance of another place in the F1 history books.

Before that, however, Vettel concedes to enduring "a rollercoaster ride", adding: "The only good news was that everybody had checked in on that ride.

"Sometimes we didn't get the results we deserved, others we did, but we weren't happy with them, so it has not been the easiest season.

"But we kept the belief from the very start and were never caught in a situation where we had to re-motivate ourselves to go out and fight for wins.

"Certainly, the fans have had the best Formula One for a long time - I personally would have loved it to be a little more boring at some stages.

"But when you think back some years ago, when you were in the lead and had only 10 laps to go you could have been pretty sure the race was yours.

"Today anything can happen until the moment you pass the chequered flag.

"The tyres keep results up in the air until the very last metres of the race.

"When you are in the hunt you still can turn it around, and when you are in the lead you can still lose it."

Vettel, after winning 11 races en route to his crushing title success last year, had to wait until the fourth race of this campaign for his opening victory, and then the 14th for his second, sparking his surge past Alonso.

Asked to select his highlight of the year to date, Vettel said: "I hope it is still to come.

"Maybe the first win of the season in Bahrain was a big relief, to know that everything is still functioning the way it used to.

"A highlight, for sure, was the win in Singapore, because I consider it physically the hardest race of the season, and, of course, the Abu Dhabi race.

"But as I said, I hope the best is still yet to come.

"No doubt we are in a very good position now and I hope we do well until the very end to make sure we deserve the glory."

It is hard to believe Vettel stands on the brink of his 100th race, his debut just five years ago in the US when he stood in for Robert Kubica in Indianapolis following the Pole's horrific smash a week previously in Canada.

"It's all gone so quickly," said Vettel on Formula One's official website.

"One hundred is a big number. One hundred grands prix sounds a lot - one hundred starts, one hundred times surviving the first corner.

"If I reflect on it, it doesn't feel so long ago I broke into Formula One.

"That shows me time flies when you do something you really like and enjoy. So let's focus on the second hundred!"

For now, the focus will be on learning yet another new track - the 10th to be unveiled in the last 14 years.

From what Vettel has seen so far, he is certainly anticipating a challenge, adding: "I have been in the simulator learning the Austin track, how it flows and getting a general feel for it.

"What we know from designer Hermann Tilke is that the hallmark of the circuit will be the big differences in altitude within a lap as the highest point is expected to be 40 metres higher than the lowest.

"The site has natural elevation changes, which promises a fast course with difficult corners for us to familiarise ourselves with."