The Formula One season that began with seven different winners in the first seven races is in danger of ending with one man, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, chalking up seven wins in succession.
The 25-year-old German has already won four in a row, the first time the double champion has done that in a single season, and is fancied to follow up Sunday’s Indian success with another in Abu Dhabi next weekend.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner kept his focus on the figure three – the three races remaining – rather than allowing anyone to get carried away with talk of seven, however.
“Talk is cheap at the end of the day and I think it’s down to what you do on the track,” he said when asked about comments by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who said he was sure he could still win the title.
Reigning champion Vettel leads Alonso, who finished second in India on Sunday, by 13 points after arriving in India six points clear.
In the balance
“We can all prophesy but … our focus is now on Abu Dhabi, to extract the most out of the car, the drivers, the strategy, the reliability that we can. It’s going to be a question of having three perfect weekends,” said Horner.
The principal, whose team could clinch the constructors’ title for the third year in a row on Sunday, was well aware that one retirement could swing the pendulum in completely the opposite direction in the drivers’ standings.
The start of the season was characterised by unpredictable racing, with teams coming to terms with the changed Pirelli tyres and regulation changes.
Spaniard Alonso made the first breakaway, leading the standings from Valencia in June until being reeled in by Vettel at this month’s South Korean race.
Vettel was two points behind Lewis Hamilton, then Alonso’s closest rival, ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix in September. Now the German is 75 points clear of the Briton having led every lap since Singapore.
“There hasn’t been any silver bullet, it’s been a pure case of working hard to understand these tyres and the regulation changes and the team’s done a super job in achieving that,” said Horner by way of explanation.
Playing mind games perhaps, Alonso said at the weekend that he felt he was challenging Red Bull designer Adrian Newey for the title as much as Vettel.
Newey, who has won titles with three different teams, is credited with introducing significant developments in Singapore that have changed the championship landscape.
Some of Red Bull’s rivals, notably McLaren, have also been inconsistent.
“If you’re at the front you can look after your tyres, you can look after everything, and I don’t suppose he (Vettel) felt too threatened by the car immediately behind him,” said McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh after Sunday’s race.
“But we made it all too easy for him. We needed to get up there and give him a harder time at the start and we weren’t able to make that stick.”
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said Red Bull clearly had a better car but that did mean the championship was a lost cause.
“We need to work hard. Full stop. By saying they are stronger doesn’t mean we change our approach,” he said.
“I’ve said to my guys that in the 1982 (football) World Cup, Italy were not the strongest, but they won the tournament. The luxury we have is that in Fernando we have the number one driver and we will fight up until the end.”