Runaway leader Sebastian Vettel can put one hand on the Formula One world title this week as he aims to stretch his astonishing winning streak to four races at the Korean Grand Prix.
Last month in Singapore, the brilliant young German left other drivers in his wake to move 60 points clear
of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and ever closer to a historic fourth straight championship.
With six races left, a wipeout from his rivals would leave Vettel capable of being crowned world champion next week in Japan, a triumph that would catapult him among the sport's greats.
Victory this year would make Vettel, 26, the youngest man to win four in a row, trumping Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio. Alain Prost is the only other man to win four or more titles.
Vettel's consecutive wins in Belgium, Italy and Singapore have not been universally popular and he has been unsportingly booed on the podium by a section of disgruntled fans.
The German, with seven wins in 13 grands prix this year, is also on a hat-trick in South Korea after winning the last two races at the Korean International Circuit in the country's rural south.
However, in what could provide a glimmer of hope for his rivals, Vettel admits the Yeongam layout is not perfectly suited to this year's Red Bull car, the RB9.
"The track in Korea has a bit of an unusual layout. The long straights all come right at the beginning and the turns are at the end," he said.
"I love the curvy part because it is a lot more fun, whereas the straight lines and sharp turns can be a little boring. They are also our weakness because we often lack in top speed there."
Alonso is the only man with a realistic chance of reeling in Vettel, although Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg are mathematically still in the hunt.
Webber will be hampered by a 10-place grid penalty for his third reprimand of the year after he abandoned his Red Bull and hitched a ride on Alonso's Ferrari following the race in Singapore.
"For (Alonso) and me to receive reprimands for our actions after the race it is comical to say the least," tweeted the clearly irritated Australian, who is quitting Formula One this season.
Raikkonen drove heroically with a bad back to go from 13th on the grid to third place in Singapore. But the Ferrari-bound Finn said he's not sure how the long-term complaint will shape up this week.
"It's not the first time I've had a problem, as there have been some issues with my back for a long time," said the former world champion, currently with Lotus.
"For sure, we will have to see how it is when I get out on track on Friday in Korea."
Sunday's race will be flagged off against a background of uncertainty after next year's edition was listed as merely "provisional" on the new Formula One calendar for 2014.
The event has been notable for its difficulties -- and sparse attendances -- since making its debut in 2010, with Korean officials repeatedly urging Formula One to slash its race fee.
Korea is immediately followed by the Japanese Grand Prix on October 13, the first of three sets of challenging back-to-back races as the season reaches its climax.
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