Red Bull chief Christian Horner admitted Sebastian Vettel’s run of five successive wins was beyond his imagination after the breakaway Formula 1 championship leader swept to victory in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Teammate Mark Webber’s three-stop strategy ended in a second place, from pole, and came under scrutiny following a pulsating Suzuka race. But Horner insisted that, whichever way you diced it, Vettel was in a class of his own.
“Sebastian has won every race since the summer break which is an incredible achievement,” gushed Horner. “Still four races to go. Our target is to try to carry this momentum into the last four races.
“I don’t think any of us could have imagined that he would have had the run of success that he’s had. The way he’s driving at the moment is quite supreme.”
Vettel, set to become only the third man to capture four successive F1 titles, has a 90-point lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso with only 100 available.
Even a brush with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes at the start which damaged his front wing failed to stop the rampaging German, who won a three-way tussle with Webber and the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
“He picked up a bit of damage from the incident with Hamilton that took about 20 points of downforce off the front wing,” said Horner. “He manages to adapt. He played the thinking game today.
“He watched, he waited in that first stint. He preserved the tyres. He was very, very smart in the way he handled the race.
“We went into the race thinking we could be marginal for a two-stop and believed [that] in clear air we could do that.
“The first stint dictated everything for us, where Mark put Grosjean under quite a lot of pressure…to the point that he’d run out of tyres by the lap that he pitted on, nine or something, pretty early in the race, which was too short for us to make a two-stop really work.
“Sebastian went about five laps longer than we expected him to. He created the options for himself by making the tyres go longer and further. And of course when he had the one opportunity to nail Grosjean, he did.”
Vettel on a two-stop and Webber pitting three times also posed a conundrum for Lotus, Horner said.
“Strategically you’ve got a bit of a chess game going on,” said Horner. “We effectively hedged our bets and split the cars, which was then, tactically, what do you do at Lotus? Which one do you cover?”
Horner also revealed Vettel used the DRS (drag reduction system) to perfection to pass Grosjean on lap 41, while Webber had made a mistake with the technology, costing him precious time at the end of the race, when he was on quicker tyres.
“Seb has DRS when he passed Grosjean,” he said. “There was one lap where Mark got right into the slipstream but because he pushed the button too early the flap didn’t open so he didn’t get the benefit.”
With Vettel’s coronation only a matter of time, Horner burst into laughter when asked if he was disappointed Red Bull had not clinched the title at Suzuka.
“How disappointed are we with a one-two finish in one of the best races strategically ever for this operation?” he smiled.
“We came here to try and win the race and championships will take care of themselves,” added Horner. “We’ll go to India and take that weekend as we have here and if we score more points than the others then we’ll win the championship.” (AFP)
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