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Vettel fightback affirms greatness, says Hill

1996 champion praises Red Bull star after Abu Dhabi thriller

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Sebastian Vettel’s remarkable return from the back of the grid to third at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday has answered any lingering doubts as to his greatness, according to former F1 world champion Damon Hill.

With the German in hot pursuit of his third consecutive world title, Vettel qualified in third at Yas Marina on Saturday only to be relegated to the back of the grid come race day after he couldn’t produce enough fuel for a sample.

After seven retirements ahead of him the Red Bull driver then overtook 15 other cars to reduce what would have been a hefty point deficit. The 25-year-old now stands just ten points clear in the standings with two stages left after second-placed Fernando Alonso came second and third-ranked Kimi Raikkonen came first.

“There’s always been the question as to whether Sebastian Vettel can fight his way through a field and overtake,” Hill told Gulf News. “But he showed today that there’s absolutely no questioning his ability.

“His talent extends right the way through from being able to drive quickly, get pole position and hold a lead in races, to being able to carve his way through a field to fight back and never give up.”

Briton’s Hill, 52, who won the world championship in 1996 and took 22 wins from 122 races, added: “It would have been easy to lose heart but he overcame it. He really fought for his title and reduced the deficit that he might have had to Alonso [in the world championship standings]. He’ll look back at Abu Dhabi and say that’s where it could have gone horribly wrong and it didn’t.

“It [the title race] could have been much more dangerous for Sebastian but he retrieved it, and diminished the damage,” said Hill.

“I’m not going to make a call on the championship. It’s going to be extremely close. They are all exceptionally good drivers at the top and the competition is just getting incredible between them all. I think we were treated to a fantastic display in Abu Dhabi.”

Should Vettel win his third consecutive world title it would put him an elite group of drivers, said Hill: “Anyone would want to get that one in the bag, it’s only two other guys that have done that: [Juan Manuel] Fanjio and [Michael] Schumacher.”

Argentina’s Fanjio won a total five world titles, but four were consecutive between 1954 and 1957, meanwhile fellow German Schumacher won five of his seven world titles in straight succession from 2000 to 2004.