Even on his dominant cruise to Suzuka victory, Sebastian Vettel managed to irk his Red Bull bosses. Late in the Japanese grand prix, with the race in the bag, the German sped up for no other reason than to beat and better his fastest race lap — a habit when he senses he can safeguard the ‘triple’ along with pole and victory.
“It makes us nervous,” the team’s Dr Helmut Marko admitted to German RTL television.
Team boss Christian Horner agrees, but adds: “He’s going faster and faster but you realise he knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Nonetheless, the radio messages went out to Vettel to “be careful”, given the importance of securing the race win with championship leader Fernando Alonso already out. Niki Lauda said it’s a risk he wouldn’t have taken. The Austrian legend then turned to Marko and insisted: “Neither of us would have done that…”
“That’s true,” Marko replied, “but that’s Vettel. It’s something he wants to do; to demonstrate what himself and the car are capable of. But it is unnecessary,” he acknowledged.
“We try it the pleasant way, telling him ‘that’s enough’, but he’s a racer,” added Marko.
For Spaniard Alonso, who was slightly critical of Kimi Raikkonen for cutting his tyre before his first corner retirement, he said the rest of the 2012 season has now become a “mini championship” just between himself and Vettel.
It is also a new start for his Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who in returning to the podium after a two-year absence is now expected to secure the seat for 2013.
When asked if second place at Suzuka could seal the deal, the Brazilian agreed: “I think so.”
It’s a similar story for Kamui Kobayashi, who earlier this weekend admitted he had “no idea” if he had done enough to keep his seat at Sauber. Now the hero of Japan after finishing third, he joked on Sunday that he and Massa now hold some better cards in their hands.
“We will have a good meeting tonight, to speak with our managers,” he grinned.
Sauber chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn was also delighted with the result, but denied it had helped the Swiss team to decide its 2013 lineup.
“The situation is unchanged,” she told Auto Motor und Sport. “It also would not have mattered if it was another way around. We know him well and know what his strengths are.”