Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by a massive margin on Sunday to chalk up a seventh successive victory and equal the longest winning streak in Formula One’s modern era.
The 26-year-old Red Bull driver was in a league of his own, 40 seconds clear at his second pitstop and then taking the chequered flag half a minute ahead of second-placed Australian team mate Mark Webber.
Vettel has now won 11 races this season, 37 in his career, and his seventh success in a row equalled the single-season tally racked up by fellow German Michael Schumacher in 2004.
The all-time record of nine was set by Italian Alberto Ascari, although that was over two seasons in 1952-53, and nobody would bet against Vettel equalling that number before the year is out with races in Austin, Texas, and Brazil to come.
To celebrate, Vettel pulled over on his slowing down lap and performed more of the smoking ‘donuts’ that landed him in trouble last weekend in India where he captured his fourth successive championship.
“Just bring the car home into the garage,” race engineer Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin told him, probably knowing already the futility of his words.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what I’m doing,” replied Vettel, echoing the famous words of Kimi Raikkonen on his way to victory in Abu Dhabi last year in response to unwanted advice from his Lotus team.
“You can pay the fine on that one,” said team principal Christian Horner who had earlier hailed his “world champion’s drive”.
Red Bull were fined 25,000 euros ($34,500) for failing to instruct Vettel to return directly and park his car in the pit lane in India.
Watched by his parents, Vettel led every lap of the Abu Dhabi race, beating pole-sitter Webber into the first corner and disappearing into the night.
So dominant was the German that the television cameras soon tired of following him in his splendid isolation, focusing instead on the battles being waged behind him.
Germany’s Nico Rosberg was third for Mercedes, 33.6 seconds behind, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean ending a run of three podium finishes with fourth place.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, crossing the finish line more than a minute after Vettel, came fifth although the Spaniard was under investigation for breaching the track limits while overtaking.
Britain’s Paul Di Resta took sixth for Force India, ahead of compatriot Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Mexican Sergio Perez handed McLaren some points with ninth place and Germany’s Adrian Sutil completed the points finishers with 10th for Force India.
Raikkonen had long since left the circuit by then, having retired at the first corner after a collision with a Caterham.
The Ferrari-bound Finn, who complained on Friday that he had not been paid by his team, started at the back of the grid after his car failed a post-qualifying inspection.