Sebastian Vettel is slowly, relentlessly, edging towards his fourth Formula 1 World Championship title and with his dominant (a word he hates) victory in the Singapore Grand Prix he now has a 60 points lead in the title race. On the day he claimed his seventh win of the season, his third in a row since Spa, his hat-trick at Marina Bay Circuit and his 41st career grand prix triumph. He spoke after the race.
It looked pretty easy from where we were sitting. How did it look from your … seat?
Sebastian Vettel: Obviously the start was quite hairy. Quite difficult with Nico having a good start, better than me. I didn’t get going initially and then had to keep the inside clear to him but fortunately he went in a little bit too deep and I could get him back which was crucial because then we had some very good pace, controlled the first stint, with the Safety Car obviously it was difficult but then we seemed to come back. As soon as the Safety Car came in we had a very, very strong pace in the car. The car was incredible. I said to the team, you know this doesn’t just happen like that, by accident or by luck. There’s hard work behind, which I appreciate and it’s just a pleasure to drive it around this crazy track.
You could just take off at will, whenever you wanted to. It seemed to be the only man who could beat you today had the slowest car on the track, the Safety Car. It was the only thing that was going to stop you.
SV: Yeah, well I mean this is a long race, it seemed to go on forever, so there’s a lot of things that can go wrong, the walls sometimes get really, really close, sometimes closer than you think. So you can’t really afford to lean back. Obviously towards the end I was controlling the gap. It was helping that I was on fresh Options compared to these guys who were on very old Primes at the time, so we could control the gap to see the chequered flag.
And physical? You’re looking pretty sweaty up here. Was it a tough race?
SV: I think we’re all sweating, not just the champagne men are wet, I think we all sweat a lot. As I said, it’s hard work out there. It’s quite hot but we like it. It’s one of the toughest challenges all year and it’s a very good feeling when you cross the line as a winner.
It’s looking pretty good isn’t it? But it’s always this man (Alonso) who seems to be chasing you, up here on the podium with you.
SV: Yeah, it’s incredible but to be honest with you I’m not really looking at the championship too much. Obviously we’re in a very good position, very strong position but I’m enjoying the moment. Days like today, like yesterday when you can feel the tension. I’m enjoying the moment. I love racing and the car’s fantastic and it doesn’t happen, as I said, by accident. Whilst there’s a lot of people hanging their balls in the pool very early on Fridays, we’re still here working very hard and pushing very hard so that we have a strong race. Days like this it’s just a pleasure to be in the car. The guys are completely committed, fully behind us, so it’s great.
As always, Singapore, a Safety Car features somewhere, it cut your lead early on, it obviously presented an opportunity in terms of strategy for others around you – but you used the word ‘control’ in your message to the team on the slow-down lap and I guess that’s really what today was really all about. An incredible demonstration – the whole weekend – of control.
SV: Yeah, well, I mean it doesn’t happen just like that. It was surely not easy to get everything right all weekend. Extremely happy though. I think the whole team can be extremely proud. I know how much work is going in. Here obviously we have a funny rhythm. When it’s nine o’clock the curfew kicks in. That’s when our mechanics leave the track on Saturday morning. They are flat out checking everything on the car they can. Same with the engineers, late hours in the office here but also in the factory. So there’s a lot of team effort going in. If we have results like today where we have the luxury to control the race at some stage, then it’s because of those late hours, because of the commitment that goes in from everybody. It’s just a privilege to be part of the team and be part of that. To enjoy the moment completely. It’s one of my favourite races here. I’ve won here three times in a row – which is incredible – so I’m just extremely happy with that and extremely happy to be with the team at this stage.
Obviously the decisive moment of the race was the start. Rosberg initially got ahead of you but then you managed to come back around the back of him and get him into Turn Three. Can you give us that from your point of view in a little detail?
SV: The lights went off, I thought I reacted pretty well but [the car] was a bit lazy to get off the line. I thought that Nico might still be there. He was, and we were side-by-side, kind of, so I had to give him room. But fortunately he was braking quite deep into Turn One and I was able to come back on the inside to get the position. Fortunately the next corner was a left-hander so I got in front and from there we had a very, very strong pace. Safety car didn’t help but also I think didn’t hurt us. In the very end obviously we had a new set of Supersofts, compared to those guys, they were obviously on very old Primes so by then we could control the race. Don’t forget there is 1.5s difference between the tyres.
Kimi, when you put those tyres on, did you know you were going to try to go on the finish on them – and what in your mind did you think was possible at stage?
Very sadly the boos returned this year. This was perhaps expected at Monza because it was Ferrari’s home race and the fans are very passionate, but this is like the tourist grand prix, people are from all over the world, it’s no home grand prix.
SV: It’s called travelling, they are on a tour, they come to every race. Fortunately we keep winning so they’ve got a reason to boo.
Sadly perhaps they are going to stay on tour. Is this something that is very sad for you, are you concerned, is it mentally exhausting even?
SV: It’s not nice but I think you should look around the grandstands. Most of the fans are dressed in red, Ferrari has a very strong fan base for a reason: they have a lot of tradition in Formula 1, they’ve been around longer and won, and they’ve been more successful than any other team. There’s more and more blue people – more and more people dressed in blue so we are doing a good job on that front but obviously they are quite emotional when they are not winning and if somebody else is winning, they don’t really like it and as it seems, as I said, they are on a tour and they come back to…they are wealthy enough to go to a lot of races, Monza or take the flight to come here to Singapore. As long as they keep booing, we are doing a very good job so that’s the way I see it. It’s not people from Singapore or from one country only. It’s normal in sports if some people support one driver then they don’t like another driver to win. Equally there were a lot of German flags around the track, there are a lot of Germans here in Singapore, it’s a very international city. The parade lap was quite nice and also the lap after the chequered flag there were a lot of people cheering. Obviously I didn’t give them the most exciting race but on days like this, I really don’t mind.
You said before that the race in Singapore is probably the toughest in the calendar. Now that you have won here, would you say that the toughest part of this year’s title race is now over?
SV: Well, the toughest race in terms of physical challenge, I think – at least, that’s the way I feel. A couple of years ago, Fernando asked for the race to be a bit shorter. It’s quite long, to be honest. Obviously it depends where you are in the race but I think from a physical point of view this is the most challenging, not because there are so many high speed corners but it’s a long lap, there are a lot of corners, no room for mistakes, very bumpy, it’s very humid, artificial lights – all this makes it a very tough combination. It’s then even sweeter to be successful here.
Do you have an explanation as to why the failure often happens to the other car [Mark Webber], not the leading driver?
SV: Yeah, I don’t think there’s a reason. We both had issues with the gearbox – if Mark had a gearbox issue – in Monza. When we came here, I think we understood it to some extent but not entirely. I had more issues on Friday with the gearbox than Mark had. Maybe he was in traffic the whole race. It’s quite hot, temperatures were maybe a bit higher but on the other hand his gearbox suffered already a little bit more in Monza because I think a radiator had an issue. So maybe it’s a consequence of that but I don’t think there’s a reason for that, between cars. We both get the same stuff from the same shelf.
Late in the race, Rocky [race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin] radioed in that he thought there was a brake vibration on the car. Was this something you could feel, was it affecting you under braking?
SV: Yeah, definitely, I could definitely feel it. It was building up towards the end of the race. Fortunately we were in the lead and we had a new set of Supersofts which we saved yesterday, so I could afford to take it a bit easy. Surely, if we had been under a lot of pressure then…we’ve had those kind of issues before but it’s not the most comfortable… you use the brakes quite a lot … around here. Then we could control it but had we raced harder until the end I think it would have been tough.
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