SUZUKA (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel roared to a Japanese Grand Prix victory on Sunday that he hoped would be ominous for his rivals and auspicious for his Formula One championship hopes.
Last year the Red Bull driver won from pole position at Suzuka but failed in his ultimate bid to win the title, finishing runner-up to Britain’s Jenson Button. Twelve months on and the 23-year-old German did it again, this time with two days of action condensed into a single day after qualifying was rained off on Saturday, and with the omens looking a whole lot better.
Only two other drivers have enjoyed successive wins at Suzuka and both went on to take the title -- Finland’s Mika Hakkinen in 1999 and Germany’s Michael Schumacher with a run of wins between 2000 and 2002.
Vettel is now just 14 points behind championship leading team mate Mark Webber with three races remaining and everything to play for.
If they were to finish similarly one-two in South Korea and Brazil -- a big if -- they would turn up for the Abu Dhabi finale level on points but with Vettel ahead 5-4 on race wins.
“I am very proud. I love this circuit. It is always special to come here,” he said after dominating every practice session and every part of qualifying.
“The fans and I think the atmosphere for all of us is special. It is the first time I have won a grand prix for the second time, so I think ultimately you have to fall in love with this track.
“Yeah, very proud, so as you say I think that (the precedent of Hakkinen and Schumacher) is a good omen, so I wouldn’t mind (if it came true).”
“This track is like it is drawn for us,” he said of Red Bull’s dominance.
“With all the high-speed corners it is always a pleasure and with the car getting lighter and lighter in the end it is just more and more fun.”
Vettel led from the start, handing over only at his pitstop and then regaining the advantage when those in front also pitted.
Whereas he and Webber collided in Turkey in May while battling for the lead, this time there was no question of any fireworks.
“It was pretty much controlled to the end, just trying to carry the car home. But still you want to push every single lap because the car is magnificent around here. It just feels fantastic, so (I’m) really happy,” said Vettel.