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Vettel favourite for title despite rivals’ charge

india Updated: Jul 29, 2011 23:08 IST
Steve Slater
Steve Slater
Hindustan Times
Steve Slater

You've got to give Mark Webber his due. Even though he again failed to turn pole position into a Red Bull victory in Germany, even in third place he managed to steal the limelight from race winner Lewis Hamilton when he stopped to give second place man Fernando Alonso a lift back to the pits on the sidepod of his car.

The gesture triggered memories of a similar moment twenty years ago. In July 1991, Nigel Mansell, having won his home British Grand Prix at Silverstone, stopped his Williams in order to give his McLaren rival Ayrton Senna a lift.

Like Alonso in Germany, the Brazilian had run out of fuel. As Mansell celebrated victory, championship leader Senna was classified fourth.

By coincidence the current championship leader was also classified fourth. Sebastian Vettel cannot feel anything but disappointed with last weekend's performance, as his hopes of a home win withered in the cold wind at the Nürburgring.

Vettel's race went from bad to worse when he found himself struggling to stay ahead of the mid-field pack. German fans' hopes that the 'wunderkind' might charge through the field to score an epic victory were thwarted as Sebastian made matters worse with a spin that flat-spotted his tyres at a crucial time in the race.

Perhaps Vettel can take solace from the 1991 championship battle. That year Senna's McLaren won the first four races in succession. Then as Williams found its stride, Mansell won thrice and Senna's championship lead dwindled.

Senna responded with back-to-back victories in the Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix. Even though Mansell was set to score two more wins later in the season, Senna cruised to his third title.

Which races are coming up next? The Hungarian and Belgian Grand Prix - and the next race could play to the Red Bull's strengths. Hungary is usually hot and the Red Bull seems to prefer hot races to cold.

If Ferrari and McLaren slug it out for victory, they are taking points from one another, while Vettel adds to his total. Despite finishing fourth, his championship lead only dropped by three points, to closest rival Webber. Vettel may clinch his second champions' title in September in Singapore, with five races remaining.

(Steve Slater is an F1 expert for ESPN Star Sports)