F1 world championship leader Sebastian Vettel has shrugged off suggestions that he must be counting down the days to a second drivers' title, despite taking his sixth win in eight races on the streets of Valencia on Sunday.
Despite hopes that a double DRS zone, a ban on variable engine mapping and improvements to both the Ferrari and McLaren might make life tougher for the German - especially after he cracked under Jenson Button's late-race pressure in Canada - Vettel led from start to finish, having already claimed his seventh pole on Saturday afternoon.
With his dominance approaching 1992 Mansell-esque proportions - apart from four DNFs, the Briton did not finish outside the top two all season - Vettel is now being asked whether he is privately predicting the venue at which he might clinch his second world championship, but refused to admit anything if he was. He has yet to do worse than second in eight outings in 2011, has yet to retire, and holds a 77-point advantage over his nearest rival in the standings. If he continues to reign supreme in coming races, he should be out of reach - and able to afford not to score thereafter - from the Japanese Grand Prix in early October. Should his rivals fail to mount a concerted challenge, however, the coronation could come even sooner than that. Mansell, for the record, was crowned at the Hungarian GP in August 1992, with five races still to run. There are four races remaining after this year's Japanese round.
"I wasn't good in maths - I liked maths but...," Vettel said when the question was raised, "It's good to know that, obviously, we are in the lead, by how many points I don't really care. People tell me often enough, so I don't need to check. Sometimes they say it differently - surprising, but it happens - but I think we will find out early enough when it matters, whether we are in a good position or not."
Vettel's road to the title is being smoothed by the failure of any one driver to keep up the pressure in second place. Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber returned to a share of second spot with Button after finishing third in Valencia, but the Briton slipped up after winning in Canada, where both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso saw their challenges briefly derailed by DNFs. Prior to the European GP, Button had the best record of the pursuers, with four podium visits in seven races - with Webber and Hamilton on three apiece and Alonso on two - but no-one could match Vettel's almost impeccable run of results.
"Mark, Fernando, Lewis, Jenson - I think they are obviously closest but, to be honest, I don't look at the scoreboard much," the German insisted, "I think you always need to take last year as an example. It shows we had good races last year, up to a certain point where things went wrong and we lost a lot of points. [We were] not necessarily making big mistakes, but losing out, losing points.
"If you look at F1 and you compare it to other sports, it's a very, very long season. We have a lot of races and there are so many things that can happen. Surely, you will have some races where everything will work, but you will have races where you will struggle, where it will be difficult, where you have conditions like Canada or things not going your way. You decide to stop, and then, all of a sudden, it starts to rain - like Fernando had in Canada. The safety car comes out at the wrong moment or whatever. It's not necessarily mistakes, but it just doesn't go your way.
"It can change the result completely and therefore the outcome and points. Of course, our target is to be in the lead and make sure we stay there, but the most important race to lead the championship after is the last one and not really before."
Red Bull Racing approached the European Grand Prix knowing that it may not be the best circuit for the RB7, but came away with first and third places to give themselves a boost before heading to the more favourable sweeps of Silverstone.
"I really like coming here - it is not my home grand prix, but the atmosphere here is something special," Vettel commented, "It is a bit difficult to know how [the car] will perform as there are not too many high speed corners here and a lot of hard stops - I think we have made huge steps forward in the last two years in those type of corners, but still it is not our ideal track.
"[By contrast], I think [Silverstone] is something all drivers enjoy - and we seemed to enjoy the last two years. I won in 2009, Mark won there last year so, all in all, we like the track, and we're looking forward to the weekend."