Sebastian Vettel continues to astound with his relentless performances in this Formula 1 era and has now added the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix to his peerless CV. The Red Bull driver was simply in a league of his own at Spa-Francorchamps, bagging maximum points with ease, while augmenting his lead in the championship battle and looking increasingly likely to notch up his fourth title in as many years. The German spoke after celebrating his 31st grand prix victory.
Your 31st grand prix victory, you’re now just one behind the man [Alonso] who finished in second place. That looked pretty easy for you today..? Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it was fantastic race for us. From start to finish, really very good tactics. Obviously it helped the first lap to have the tow off Lewis through Eau Rouge and then I was flying. Once I passed him we had incredible pace and really could control the race until the end. We were a bit afraid of the rain coming towards the end but I think it just passed the circuit. Great race. Thank you to the team, thanks to Renault. All the guys have been working very hard and…yeah, fantastic result, can’t be any better.
You passed a milestone today if you’re into statistics. You seem to like to get the fastest lap towards the end of these grand prix but you’ve now led well over 2000 laps in your grand prix career. Were you aware of that one? SV: Now I am. Thank You! Yeah, incredible. We are a bit confused down here because the crowd is booing and cheering and booing and we don’t understand why. [Note: the drivers were unable to see the Greenpeace protest taking place around and above the podium which irritated the crowd gathered at the foot of the podium.]
Your points lead is extended to the largest ever margin you’ve had. You must feel good looking to the second half of this season. SV: Yeah. Obviously winning helps. Just really controlled. The car was much better than I think we expected going into the race. So we had a bit of pace on hand to control the race. I really enjoyed that a lot. I think the guys on the pit wall as well, it was not as stressed as at other times. Fortunately there was no rain, so in terms of critical calls there were none to make. It was a very good afternoon for us and obviously looking forward to Monza where we don’t expect, maybe, to be that strong but let’s see.
Clearly the decisive moment was the opening lap of the race. Tell us about that and how it set you up for the rest of the afternoon. SV: Yeah, obviously very difficult around here to plan your start because first of all you need to have a good launch off the line and then there’s a long straight coming. A bit like Korea. I tried my best to line up behind Lewis and basically benefit from a massive tow through Eau Rouge. I think especially in the opening lap when the tyres are not yet completely there and the fuel tank is full, Obviously the cars are quite heavy up the hill and produce a lot of drag and I was able, in the tow, to make up a lot of speed and when I got side by side I had a lot of advantage over Lewis and was able to get straight ahead. So, yeah, it worked very well, what I was trying to…let’s say, plan at the exit of turn two. And after that I just tried to settle into the rhythm. I tried to open a gap to be flexible at the first stop and yeah, until the end we had incredible pace. We didn’t expect that. We knew, probably, going in that, in the dry, we should be able to beat Mercedes on the track but we knew other cars – Lotus, Ferrari – they looked very competitive in the dry, so in that regard yeah, we had massive pace and could control the race until the end.
You’ve increased your championship lead as well, now over Fernando, almost two race wins clear. How are you feeling about it at this stage? SV: For sure a positive message today but I’m honestly more happy to win the race today: it’s a fantastic track and especially when the car works well, you don’t want the race to stop. The car is getting lighter and lighter and I was very comfortable at the end on the Primes. The car, as I said, was just a pleasure to drive. You don’t…I didn’t think about the championship or points. Obviously I know the higher up you finish the better it is – ideally ahead of everyone else, which worked today. But yeah, such a great circuit. We’ve had good races here in the past so it’s nice to have another one, another great memory today. So, that’s what honestly I was focussing on most. For sure, regarding the championship, it’s a bonus.
Kimi is now 63 points behind you. Do you think he’s out of this championship? SV: No, there’s more than 63 points you can score before the end of the season. I don’t know what happened to him. It’s obviously a shame for him but these things can happen. I had a technical failure in Silverstone, we lost the race. It hurts but equally you have so many races that all of us we have these kind of things happening; surely the cars are – in terms of generation – at their end and it’s not a completely new car if you look at the previous years but still we are pushing. The cars are on the limit and you try to get everything out of them. Things that are built on the limit can also break.
Do you feel you are like in the situation of two years ago when you won the championship quite early in Japan? Do you think it’s going smoothly and you are relaxed with the situation around you? SV: Well, I…maybe you have a different memory but what I remember from 2011 is that we had a fantastic season but we were working very hard, step by step, race by race and surely not working towards a certain race to seal the championship with a couple of races to go. I wasn’t relaxed at that time, I was as nervous as I am today, hopefully. Therefore, as I said, it’s really step by step and not trying to be too smart, too clever and think too far ahead.
Unusually for Red Bull, your car was set up for quite a high top speed. Was it because you have taken into consideration that you expected to do some overtaking during the race, and how well does that look for Monza, with reasonably low downforce? You were very quick here. SV: Well, ideally we try to set up our car to the optimum. I think we were maybe more competitive than we expected. Whether that’s us over-performing or the others under-performing, I’m not entirely sure to be honest. So in that regard, it’s always nice to have speed on the straights if you have to overtake, then it’s obviously easier to get yourself side-by-side with the other car and to lose something more under braking, whereas if you’re limited by straightline speed it’s very difficult to pass. We’ve had some bad experiences around here so maybe this year we were a little bit on the higher side in terms of speed. For Monza, I don’t know actually. It’s very difficult to predict. We had painful years in a way, where we just get hammered down the straights and we’ve had years where the loss down the straight was limited, so we could come back in the corners and for sure, if you look back the 2011 experience was great in that regard. How it turns out to be this year it’s difficult to say. I think we can be quite confident. We had a good race in Canada, we had a very good race here which are both medium downforce type of tracks, so I hope that our low downforce package goes in the same direction.
When you attacked Lewis did you have some KERS left for it and then obviously to Lewis, did you have some KERS to defend yourself or was everything gone after the start? SV: I had some left.