Red Bull ace all but assured of his fourth title in a row.
Sebastian Vettel left the Monza paddock trying not to grin from ear to ear after his dominant triumph for Red Bull in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix and doing his best to avoid all talk of a fourth consecutive drivers’ title.
But after claiming his sixth win of the season in flawless fashion, there were few observers not supporting the claim that this year’s title race is all over bar the shouting.
Briton Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes admitted his hopes were over after he stepped out of his car, having finished ninth, and though he later rescinded that view – and pledged to do his utmost to halt the Vettel express – he knows he faces a massive challenge.
Last year, when the 26-year-old German was pushing hard for his third title in a close scrap with two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, he revelled in the contest.
Vettel left Monza facing a fight and he responded by winning the next four in a row – in Singapore, Japan, Korea and India – to set up a triumphant finale to the year.
This season’s calendar has provided the same sequence of Grands Prix with Vettel poised, on form, to wrap up his fourth title before he flies to India.
He knows that if he wins three in a row and nearest rival Alonso, who trails by 53 points after finishing second in front of the tifosi on Sunday, finishes second each time, he will require only two points from the final four outings to claim the crown.
Vettel, however, was in no mood to contemplate the statistics after a stunning triumph at the old Autodromo Nazionale.
“I am not really thinking about the points situation,” he said.
“Obviously, we are in a very good position and I am just thinking about Singapore. I am trying to keep focused because, in order to stay at the top of our game, it is important to focus — because a lot of things have to go right for us to have success.
“So we won’t think about what might happen in six, seven or eight races… just the next one.”
Vettel was also very good-natured about the booing directed at him on the victors’ podium after the race, pointing out that it would have been different if he was driving for an Italian team.
He added: “I am just enjoying myself, I have always liked this track.
“The car is very light, but when you feel comfortable in a car then you are really quick around here.
“I think that made the difference today but really I am just happy to go driving.”
While Alonso heaped praise on Vettel’s dominant weekend, he also pledged to fight on. “We have to improve – very soon,” he said, nudging Ferrari again to raise their game and performance.
Hamilton, 81 points behind with seven races remaining, admitted: “When I got out of the car I was angry and definitely thought that was it.
“But I’ve been back with my engineers and I’m not going to give up. I basically need to win every race, which is the tallest order ever, but I can do nothing but try.”
The 28-year-old Briton is pinning his hopes on the return to high down-force circuits like Singapore.
“Our car was good in Hungary where we had higher down-force and we’ll have that going into Singapore where we can hope for some improvements.
“I hope we’ll be strong and get some more wins this year. I wish it was a closer battle — it’s a shame it is the way it is.”