One point. That’s all he needs. The man who’s won nine races so far this season, started on pole for 11 of them and finished no lower than fourth since October last year needs to take just a single point from this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix to claim his second consecutive Formula One world championship. He’ll also become the youngest double champ in the sport’s history. Oh, and he also topped the Top Gear leaderboard this year. Not a bad 2011, all told.
Only Jenson Button has the power to stop Sebastian Vettel now (if Jenson wins on Sunday and Seb fails to score, the fight goes to Korea), but even he’s admitted the season ‘is all but over’. We’d say that stranger things have happened – after all, the German did crash in P1 this morning – but they really haven’t.
And for that reason, if there’s not a booze-soaked German thrusting his right index finger into our faces from the back page of the Monday papers, we’ll eat our trousers. And these aren’t special trousers made out of liquorice and chocolate – we’re talking bog-standard Levi 501s here (we’re going to hold you to that – Ed).
For starters, there’s no way Seb’ll be willing to settle for 10th place. Not in his special season. He’s won at Suzuka for the last two years in a row – both times from pole – and we reckon it’ll take an impromptu cameo from Godzilla (or, as the case may be, another kamikaze lunge from Lewis Hamilton) to stop him getting his hat-trick.
‘Yes, there would be reason to celebrate, even if we finish 10th, but it wouldn’t be the same,’ he told the press yesterday, putting to bed any suggestions that he might aim to roll it home in the mid-field and give someone else a go on the podium for a change.
He’s also refused to talk about victory celebrations ahead of the race. ‘The moment you decide to fly,’ he said, sounding a bit like Eric Cantona, ‘sooner or later there’s a moment when you will come down as well.’ A frustratingly sensible way of looking at things, but in an era where the sport’s cool-headed men of precision seem to have the upper hand on the media-whoring rockstars, you’d have to admit that taking nothing for granted is the way to go.
We can’t see Jenson doing the job, either. While he’s undoubtedly in the form of his life, Suzuka has always been a bit of a stumbling block for JB – even in his championship year he could only manage a limp 8th place finish. He’s also got Lewis Hamilton to worry about – a man so eager to reclaim his number one driver status that we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him taking another chunk out of his teammate, a la Canada.
It barely seems necessary, but we’ll open it up to the floor anyway. Can you see any other outcome than a second world championship for Vettel this weekend? Say yes, by the way, and you’re an idiot.
Here’s our prediction for Sunday’s starting grid:
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Jenson Button
4. Mark Webber
5. Fernando Alonso
6. Nico Rosberg
7. Felipe Massa
8. Michael Schumacher
9. Kamui Kobayashi
10. Paul Di Resta