Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’ motorsport director Toto Wolff have admitted that this year’s world championship is Sebastian Vettel’s to lose after another dominant drive from the Red Bull driver in the Singapore Grand Prix.
It was Vettel’s third successive win, seventh of the year and 33rd of his career and extended his championship lead over nearest rival Alonso to 60 points with six races – and 150 points – remaining.
The German has always performed well in the Asian flyaways, winning in Korea, Japan and India – which are the next three races – last season. If he continues this form, he could wrap up the title as early as in India, with three races still to go.
Alonso said: “We have to be realistic. With a few races to go, the gap is still increasing every weekend and now it’s 60 points. We need to be honest with ourselves and know we need a lot of luck, not just in the next race in Korea, but in Japan, in India, in Abu Dhabi…
Ferrari’s Alonso said: “We need to be lucky for the last six races if we want to win the championship because we are one second off the pace. On the other hand, we are a very uncomfortable opponent. If we get that luck, we will be there.”
Alonso pointed to Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber’s retirement on the final lap of the Singapore Grand Prix as evidence that anything can happen – and if it does, he and his Ferrari team have to be there to capitalise.
“If this happens to Sebastian one weekend we have to be there, in second place,” said the Spaniard. “If we cannot win the race we need to be right behind and try to take any opportunity, but being realistic, we know we need to be very, very lucky.”
But the Spaniard, who won last of his two world championships in 2006, admitted that Red Bull and Vettel are just doing a better job than anyone else.
“We are trying our maximum, trying to improve the car for every race – and we are doing it – but obviously not enough compared to our opponents,” said Alonso. “They [Red Bull] are doing a better job than us, they are fantastic every weekend. They are winning and they deserve those wins.”
Mercedes’ form has tailed off since Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Hamilton taking just 27 points from the last three races – compared to Vettel’s 75 – which leaves the 2008 world champion 96 adrift of the 26-year-old German in the standings.
When asked if feared Red Bull and Vettel could win all of the final six races, Wolff replied “Yes”, adding: “In Singapore, the kind of performance he showed by going two seconds per lap faster was absolutely stunning, and if they don’t have any DNFs…I don’t know if he will have a clean sweep, but if anybody deserves the world championship, then it’s him.”
But Wolff remained upbeat about the future following a much-improved season for Mercedes after three largely uncompetitive years.
“That dominance is something we are aiming to achieve over the next few years,” he said. “We are looking forward so there is no reason to be depressed because the step we have made in the last 12 months is something we should be proud of.
“If you look at the race, immediately afterwards we were disappointed to finish third and fourth, but then you return to your hotel and say ‘Well, that was fine’. Obviously, we are all here to win the world championship one day, and it’s good we have raised the bar. Equally it’s dangerous to do so because the level of satisfaction is much more difficult to achieve.”