Formula One

 
         === The Inside Line: Vettel has another F1 title in sight ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Sebastian Vettel's dominance in the past
 three Grand Prix has now put him in the driver's seat to win this year's
 Formula One world championship.
 
 In what had been a hotly contested battle for the driver's title, Vettel has
 turned the tables after consecutive wins in Singapore, Japan and Korea. The
 Red Bull driver trailed Fernando Alonso by 39 points following the Sept. 9
 Italian Grand Prix. Vettel has since gained 45 points on Alonso.
 
 After winning Sunday's Korean Grand Prix, Vettel moved atop the championship
 standings for the first time since the May 13 Spanish Grand Prix. Four races
 remain this season -- India (Oct. 28), Abu Dhabi (Nov. 4), Austin, Texas (Nov.
 18) and Brazil (Nov. 25).
 
 Vettel, who is attempting to win his third F1 championship, has had an up-and-
 down year all season, unlike his phenomenal season in 2011. After Red Bull
 experienced its share of mechanical and engine issues during pre-season
 testing, Vettel did not claim his first victory this year until the fourth
 Grand Prix, held April 22 in Bahrain.
 
 His season turned for the worse in the June 24 European Grand Prix. After
 starting on the pole and leading the first 33 laps, holding a 20-second
 advantage at one point, he suffered a mechanical issue and was forced to
 retire with 24 laps remaining.
 
 Vettel had rebounded somewhat after the European GP but experienced another
 mechanical problem in Italy, forcing his second retirement of the season.
 
 Since Singapore, Vettel has returned to the same winning form he had last
 year. He scored 11 victories and 17 podium finishes in 19 Grand Prix. His 15
 poles set a new season record in F1.
 
 "For many months, it was something of a real roller coaster ride, but we
 finally found our strength again, and since Singapore it works," Vettel said.
 "(Sunday in Korea), the team did everything right, and I didn't do anything
 stupid. We sure want to keep it that way."
 
 Vettel won last year's inaugural race in India and claimed victories in the
 2010 events in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. F1 will run at the Circuit of the
 Americas in Austin for the first time this year.
 
 "I'm looking forward to the next couple of races," he said. "We had a good
 last couple of races, but we've seen the championship is pretty much up and
 down. A lot of things can happen. What do we do? I think we have to focus on
 ourselves. We need to have our best possible results, and then we go from
 there."
 
 But Vettel knows quite well that anything can happen during the next four
 Grand Prix, particularly with this season being as unpredictable as any other
 one in recent memory.
 
 It appeared Alonso was the clear favorite to win the championship after Italy.
 But Alonso's somewhat comfortable points lead was significantly trimmed in
 Japan. He crashed on the opening lap when Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen made contact
 with him and punctured his left-rear tire.
 
 In the Sept. 2 Belgian Grand Prix, Alonso also was involved in a horrifying
 multi-car crash on the first lap, which was triggered by Raikkonen's teammate,
 Romain Grosjean.
 
 Alonso finished third in the Korean GP. He made his ninth podium appearance of
 the season, which is more than any other driver.
 
 "We lost the lead by six points, but if we think how it went for us the last
 four or five races, with two retirements, nothing to do with the team, no
 mistakes from the team, not mechanical problems or anything like that, just
 some people flying over us and things like that," Alonso said. "With all these
 problems, being six points behind leaves open a lot of possibilities for us in
 the last four races."
 
 The conclusion of this season could be much like the one we saw two years ago.
 Alonso held a 25-point lead over Vettel with two races to go. But Vettel's
 wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi allowed him to clinch the championship by just
 four points over Alonso.
 
 "There are still 100 points up for grabs, and I have a lead of six," Vettel
 said. "We have to focus on ourselves, and then let's see where it has taken us
 after the Brazilian Grand Prix."
 
 Vettel has the most wins this year with four, compared to three for Alonso.
 
 
 10/15 16:58:52 ET

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