herald

Monday 5 December 2016

F1: Sebastian Vettel is nearing Senna's mark

Ferrari ace plays down a Shanghai surprise

Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (R) speaks to a team member after the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 10, 2015
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (R) speaks to a team member after the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on April 10, 2015

Sebastian Vettel is playing down the prospect of repeating his shock Malaysian Grand Prix victory in Shanghai this weekend, despite standing on the brink of emulating a feat achieved by one of Formula One's most revered drivers.

Vettel recorded an emotional maiden Ferrari triumph at a sweltering Sepang circuit a fortnight ago, moving him to 40 career victories and just one shy of the late, great Brazilian Ayrton Senna's haul of wins.

The triumph also allowed him to follow in the footsteps of German compatriot and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher of winning for Ferrari, although Vettel achieved the feat in just his second race for the sport's most successful team.

Schumacher recorded his first victory for Ferrari in his seventh race.

"I think it's very special," Vettel told reporters of Senna's milestone at a chilly Shanghai International Circuit on Thursday.

"Obviously it took me a while to get number 40 done. Hopefully, the next one is not that far away. But, yeah, I think it would certainly mean a lot for any driver."

Vettel is known to take a keen interest in the history of the sport and was tempted away from Red Bull, where he won four consecutive world titles, by the lure of Ferrari and a chance to join Formula One's most prestigious team.

However, he grew up idolising Schumacher and admitted he was not aware he was within touching distance of the benchmark set by Senna, arguably the sport's most respected driver, who was killed following a crash at the Imola circuit in 1994.

"First of all I wasn't aware to be honest," added Vettel, who is currently fourth on the all-time list of Grand Prix winners. "I know Michael's number but that's just ridiculous."

Schumacher leads that tally with 91 victories, followed by Senna's rival and four-time world champion Alain Prost on 51, while the Brazilian lies third.

first

Vettel's win in Malaysia was his first since the 2013 season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix and Ferrari's first since the Spanish Grand Prix that same year.

It also snapped an eight-race winning streak for Mercedes, giving the sport a much-needed shot in the arm at a time when the German team appeared to be streets ahead of their Formula One rivals.

But Vettel, who benefited from a strategic gamble by his race engineers and the searing temperatures in Malaysia, is less confident of scoring a second consecutive win in the cooler temperatures expected in China.

"It was obviously nice for us to see that we were so competitive," he said.

"There were also a couple of circumstances coming together but most important we managed to capitalise and get a very good result and win the race."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News