Vettel auditions for starring role as title nears

By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Over the past few weeks, Formula One fans and moviegoers around the world have been thrilled by Ron Howard's account of the gripping 1976 title battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the biographical action film "Rush".

Should Howard ever have the desire to recount the 2013 season, he needs only to look to one man for the lead role and can call the movie "Crush" to emphasise the manner in which triple world champion Sebastian Vettel is destroying his rivals on the way to a fourth consecutive title.

Under the floodlights in Singapore on Sunday, the German completed a hat-trick of victories on the Marina Bay Street Circuit to extend his championship lead to 60 points over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with just six rounds remaining.

The 26-year-old controlled the entire race weekend so comfortably that even a safety car period which pulled the field together midway through the marathon 61-lap grand prix only served as a reminder of how much faster he is than the rest.

Once his Red Bull was unleashed again after the track was cleared of debris, the German easily sped away from his closest challengers to pull more than 30 seconds ahead within 15 laps of the restart.

It was then just a matter of cruising to the line, and he even had a spare set of fresh super soft option tyres available - saved from only taking one qualifying stint to secure pole on Saturday - should he have needed them in the closing stages.

"At the end, I was just controlling the gap. It was hard work out there but we like it because it is one of the most challenging tracks," Vettel told reporters.

Over the past three seasons, Vettel has torn up the record books on his way to consecutive championships and with 25 points available for a win, he could become the youngest and quickest driver to notch four world titles as early as Suzuka on October 13.

Even being booed on the podium by rival fans as he celebrated his last three victories has done little to quench his desire for more success, instead spurring him on to continue winning for a team that has adapted brilliantly to every problem the sport has thrown at it.

'KEEP BOOING'

"It's not nice but I think if you look around the grandstands, there are a lot of fans dressed in red as Ferrari have a strong tradition in the sport and have been more successful than any other team," Vettel said of the jeering.

"They are quite emotional when they are not winning and they don't like it as it costs a lot of money to follow the sport... in Monza or taking flights here to Singapore. As long as they keep on booing then we are doing a good job."

Minor rule changes, overtaking aids and exploding tyres earlier this season have been unable to prevent Red Bull from dominating the series for the last three years.

Next year, a reduction in engine power, Mark Webber's departure from Formula One and an increase to a 21-race calendar (currently 19) are more obstacles the Milton Keynes-based team will need to encounter.

However, judging by the manner in which team principal Christian Horner has steered them through adversity in the past, Red Bull look set to remain a major force in 2014 despite the Briton's cautious prediction about the revised engines.

"Next year is a bit of a game changer and I think the power unit is going to become a key performance differentiator," Horner told reporters in front of a jubilant Red Bull garage.

"Whoever between Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault gets it right or wrong on the power unit side could have a major effect on the pecking order and performance.

"Nobody knows at the moment ... everybody thinks they are doing alright but it's going to take the first half of next year to know that." (Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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