Oct 14 2013
Lewis Hamilton is convinced Sebastian Vettel can go on to equal one of Formula One's all-time great records.
Vettel's total domination of the second half of the current campaign continued on Sunday with his tactical win in the Japanese Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old German has now won five races in a row, setting a personal best record, and moving himself within touching distance of a fourth consecutive world title.
Given the formidable form of Red Bull and Vettel, it is possible he could take the chequered flag in the final four races in India, Abu Dhabi, the United States and Brazil.
If Vettel can pull off such a feat he would match the record mark of nine straight wins set by Ferrari's Alberto Ascari, spanning the end of the 1952 season and the start of 1953.
Not even Michael Schumacher, given all the records he established for himself throughout his time in F1 which includes seven championships, could come close to Ascari, with seven wins his best run.
Asked whether Vettel could win the last four, Hamilton replied: "If he doesn't have any reliability issues, most likely. He's just walking it."
The sentiment was obvious - that Vettel is currently in a league of his own at present and that a record-equalling run is on.
The same message came from Lotus, despite the fact they appear to be Red Bull's closest rivals on track at present.
Romain Grosjean certainly gave Vettel a run for his money at Suzuka, leading for 26 of the opening 28 laps, only for Red Bull's superior strategy to pay dividends.
Grosjean is still searching for his first victory in F1 as he had to settle for third behind a Red Bull one-two.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier, when asked which of the final races offered up the best chance to beat Red Bull, joked: "Winter testing!"
Boullier added: "They are far too fast. Their pace is too far ahead.
"We could benefit from a driver mistake or reliability issue, but nothing else."
Hamilton, forced to retire his Mercedes for the first time this year with floor damage sustained following a lap-one puncture, also does not feel a further win is possible this season.
"We have stopped developing the car and Red Bull are a long way ahead, so it is not going to happen," he said.
"But we can get some really solid points, and I reckon we can get back on the podium."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner can also sense Vettel is on the cusp of something quite special in the sport.
"Sebastian has won every race since the summer break, which is an incredible achievement," assessed Horner.
"I don't think any of us could have imagined he would have had the success he has had. The way he is driving at the moment is quite supreme.
"But there are still four races to go, and our task is to carry our momentum into those races, with the next two in India and Abu Dhabi a different challenge."
With a 90-point cushion over Fernando Alonso, and with Red Bull 148 ahead of Ferrari in the constructors' championship, it is likely there will be a double celebration in a fortnight's time in India.
"The championships will take care of themselves," said Horner.
"We'll go to India and attack that weekend, as we did in Japan, and if we score more points than the others we will win the championship.
"But wherever it happens, whether it's in India or Abu Dhabi, we'll be grateful to have a good celebration."