GREATER NOIDA, India, October 27 – Sebastian Vettel roared into the history books as Formula One’s youngest four-time champion and celebrated in outlandish style after a superlative win at the Indian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Pole-sitter Vettel pitted early to change his soft tyres but then scythed through the field to win 30 seconds ahead of Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg, with Lotus driver Romain Grosjean third.
The 26-year-old German becomes the youngest man to win four straight titles, with Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher the only other drivers to achieve the feat.
And despite team-mate Mark Webber’s retirement with a mechanical problem, Red Bull also sealed their fourth straight constructors’ title with three races to go.
“Unbelievable day,” said the jubilant Vettel over the team radio. “We did it! Yes! Yes!”
“You’ve done it in style,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on the radio as Vettel raced past the chequered flag. “Brilliant drive, you join the greats.”
With his fourth championship, achieved with 10 wins this season, Vettel levels French great Alain Prost on the all-time list with only Fangio (five) and Schumacher (seven) ahead of him.
He celebrated jubilantly by spinning doughnuts for a cacophonous grandstand, and then leapt on top of his car and saluted his fans before kneeling in front of the Red Bull in mock worship.
An emotional Vettel, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of Rosberg and Grosjean on the champagne-spattered victory podium, said it was the “best day of my life”.
“First of all I want to thank the crowd for an unbelievable reception,” he said. “I am speechless. I spent ages thinking what to say, there is so much you want to say at a time like that.
“It is a pleasure to jump in the car and go out and drive for the guys and give it all I have. The car was phenomenal today and has been phenomenal all season to be honest.”
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone who is behind the team. It has not been an easy season. From the outside, people will think it was easy but it wasn’t.”
Vettel said the enthusiastic applause from the Indian crowd was particularly sweet after he was unsportingly jeered after winning in Belgium, Italy and Singapore.
“It has been hard for me in particular, to be booed when I have not done anything wrong was hard, but I think I answered the things on the track which I am very pleased about,” he said.
“I am overwhelmed, I don’t know what to say but it is the best day of my life so far.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was Vettel’s nearest challenger going into the race but 90 points adrift, managed only 11th place.
Vettel’s sixth win in a row, 10th in 16 races this season and 36th of his career left him poised to shatter more records in the remaining three races in Abu Dhabi, America and Brazil.
If he wins all three, Vettel will equal Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in 2004 and become the only driver to secure nine consecutive victories in a season.
Italian Alberto Ascari drove a Ferrari for nine straight wins, but his run was spread over two seasons in 1952 and 1953.
The German, who won the Indian race in both 2011 and 2012, once again dominated with record times in all three practice sessions this year and a perfect qualifying round on Saturday.
Vettel, made a quick change to medium tyres after the second lap and dropped to the back of the field, but was he returned to second place by the 21st lap behind Webber.
He regained the lead in the 30th lap but then saw Webber drop out of the race in the 40th due to gearbox problems.
As Vettel took charge in familiar fashion, his team were taking no chances in the pit lane and at one stage even admonished him after setting a fastest lap.
Horner later said: “It is an amazing day. Words fail me for what Seb has done for the last four years.
“It is gutting on the day we win the constructor’s championship that Mark Webber didn’t finish and make it one-two.”
The big turnout at Buddh International Circuit would have pleased the organisers, who hope to return to Formula One in 2015 after being left out of the 2014 calendar.