Jury out on Vettel rivals' title chances

By on Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jul.26 (GMM) According to the Tuscan newspaper Il Tirreno, the Nurburgring last Sunday proved that "The world championship is not over."

France's L'Equipe agreed that, with the championship leader Sebastian Vettel uncharacteristically off the front row and podium, Germany was a "cold shower" for the Red Bull driver.

Lewis Hamilton surprised himself with victory in a McLaren well-suited to the unseasonably cold conditions, but he remains 82 points behind Vettel with just nine races to run.

And the Briton expects the 23-year-old to bounce back.

"This was a small glitch over a long period. I have no doubts he (Vettel) will have some interesting comments made about him but he will be back, no doubt," said Hamilton.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has scored more points than any other rival in the past three grands prix, but he too is cautious about rating his chances of chasing down the leader.

"We need some help from Red Bull," said the Spaniard. "If they keep finishing the races, even third or fourth, it's enough for them."

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh agrees that Vettel's chasers need to keep the pressure on because the world champion "made a couple of mistakes" in Germany.

But he, as well as his Ferrari counterpart Stefano Domenicali, stop short of being confident.

"I don't think we can say that this victory shows we are on a roll," said Whitmarsh, whilst Domenicali noted: "I don't forget that last year in Hungary we were one second off the pace of Red Bull."

One theory on the recent change in form is that, with Jenson Button's 2009 feats in mind, Vettel has calculated that a low-risk strategy will still deliver him the title.

It's also possible that he and Red Bull have begun to struggle.

"I tend to think Seb is young enough to absorb the hit of last weekend and not tighten up, but we shall see," wrote David Coulthard in his telegraph column.

Another former McLaren driver John Watson insists that Vettel is far enough ahead to relax.

"The only thing that can have a bearing would be something that would stop Vettel from competing in the next three or four races and that's very unlikely," he told the Guardian.

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