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AUSTIN, Texas: Sebastian Vettel can make his 100th Formula One race the United States Grand Prix an historic one here on Sunday by being crowned the youngest ever triple world champion.
The 25-year-old German, and his Red Bull team, could make it a night for double celebrations if they take both the drivers’ and teams’ titles in a country where he made his debut as a baby-faced 19-year-old stand-in at Indianapolis in 2007.
That last United States Grand Prix, five years ago, was won by Briton Lewis Hamilton of McLaren and, this time around, he will once again be a major contender for victory in his penultimate race for the team before he leaves for Mercedes.
But both championship leader Vettel and Hamilton know they face a challenge this weekend from two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari who is 10 points behind the German in the title race and still convinced he can secure his own third title.
Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus, victorious in Abu Dhabi, will also be a threat.
Vettel, who replaced Pole Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber in 2007, managed to qualify seventh and finish eighth, his single point for that feat making him F1’s youngest points-scorer -- a record that he still holds.
As he looked ahead to this weekend’s showdown at the virtually unknown Circuit of the Americas, a purpose-built track 15 miles from Austin city centre, he admitted he could hardly believe it. “It’s all gone so quickly,” he said.
“One hundred is a big number - 100 grands prix sounds a lot: 100 starts, 100 times surviving the first corner. If I reflect on it, it doesn’t feel so long ago that I broke into Formula One...
“That shows me that time flies when you do something that you really like and enjoy, so let’s focus on the second 100!”AFP