The United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, comes at a crucial time in the season, when the constructors' and drivers' titles hang in the balance. The season's penultimate event will mark Sebastian Vettel's 100th start in Formula One.
"It’s all gone so quickly," the Red Bull Racing driver told Formula1.com recently. "One hundred is a big number -- 100 grand prix sounds a lot: 100 starts, 100 times surviving the first corner."
Vettel has done more than survive the first corner. In his 99 starts thus far, he has started from pole 35 times. He has reached the podium 45 times with 26 wins. He has recorded 14 fastest laps.
The 25-year-old German currently leads the 2012 championship by 10 points over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who had held the top position for the first half of the season. Then Vettel ran off four big wins in a row.
"They have helped us a lot," he said about the streak. "If you look at the whole season with 20 races, you do have incidences that you don’t like to have; you probably have some retirements due to technical problems... We had those -- and hopefully we have now passed this phase."
It seems like it. Red Bull Racing is up by 78 points on Ferrari and is likely to wrap up the constructors' title in Austin. Vettel could do the same if he has a good day or Alonso has a bad one.
Regardless, 100 grands prix, in and of itself, is nothing to sneeze at. Jackie Stewart, the three-time F1 champion, quit after 99. James Hunt, the British champion, had only 93.
"If I reflect on it, it doesn't feel so long ago that I broke into Formula One," he said. "That shows me that time flies when you do something that you really like and enjoy. So let's focus on the second hundred!"
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