GREATER NOIDA, INDIA (AP) - Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his fourth straight Formula One championship Sunday after turning in a trademark clinical performance to win the Indian Grand Prix.
Starting from pole, Vettel dominated the Buddh International Circuit to join F1 greats Juan Miguel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as just the third driver to win four consecutive championships. The only other driver to win four championships was Alain Prost.
“You’ve won it in style,” an elated Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Vettel over the car radio immediately after the race. “Brilliant stuff. You’ve joined the greats.”
After taking the checkered flag, Vettel performed several donuts on the track before climbing from his car, acknowledging the crowd and kneeling with his head bowed to the track. He then climbed the pit lane fence to embrace members of his team.
“I’m overwhelmed, don’t know what to say,” he said immediately after the race. “It is one of the best days of my life.
“I think back about where I started, when F1 was so far away. I have so many people to thank from go-carting to junior categories of F1,” he added. “I always tried to listen, learn. It has been incredible to compete against the best, it is a very tough field, and come out on top of the world.”
With Vettel’s win, Red Bull has also claimed its fourth straight constructor’s title, despite losing Mark Webber to mechanical problems while in second place.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was fourth with teammate Fernando Alonso finishing a disappointing 11th.
Vettel, at 26 the youngest driver to win four world titles, has now won 10 races this season, including the last six. He has won all three Indian GP races from pole.
A clearly emotional Vettel, taking occasional swigs from his celebratory magnum of champagne, thanked his team, his family, spoke of his respect for the Indian people and rivals including Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Webber in a post-race media conference.
“To win four titles, I don’t know, it’s just a big number you know? Four titles,” he said. “Fangio put the number of five titles and everybody appreciated him as the best driver in the world. Michael (Schumacher) came along … it’s incredible that one guy managed to score more championships than (Fangio) did.
“I’m way too young to know what it means (to win four titles). … It’s difficult to realize something that nobody can take away from you basically.”
Starting on the quick but fragile soft tires, Vettel lasted just one lap before switching to the medium compounds, emerging from the pit lane in 17th place.
With Webber in the lead, Vettel wove his way back toward the front, gradually narrowing the gap to the lead and passing second placed Perez on the 22nd lap to move into second.