Although his talent was clear from his time in the junior ranks, Sebastian Vettel has been elevated from zero to hero in the space of a week, with his fourth place in Shanghai now seeing him linked to a possible seat at McLaren.

Although Mercedes' Norbert Haug has moved to quell the speculation, and there are obvious contract complications that would need to be overcome if such a switch were to be considered, Vettel has found out just how quickly opinions can change in Formula One.

A week ago, the German was being pilloried for his part in ending both his involvement in the Japanese Grand Prix and that of Red Bull stable-mate Mark Webber. Although focus in the incident later shifted to Lewis Hamilton's tactics behind the safety car at Fuji, Vettel's stock took a slight dip among some sections of the paddock. The 20-year old responded in the best possible fashion, however, overcoming a blocking penalty that demoted him to 17th on the Shanghai grid to claim not only his best F1 result, but also that of his Toro Rosso team, taking 'best of the rest' honours behind the remaining Ferraris and McLarens on another tricky day.

The performance has led to Vettel's name being added to those already connected with Fernando Alonso's seat at McLaren - and to Haug playing down speculation that Mercedes is lining up a German replacement should the double world champion decide to cut his already weakened ties with Woking.

"It is clear that, as soon as a German F1 driver starts to get good results, people seem to think that this should lead to a seat with Mercedes," the burly vice-president of motorsport sighed, "Sebastian has had two very strong races, and I am enormously happy for him as I have known him since he was in the ADAC junior series and from F3, where he raced with Mercedes engines, but there is no truth in the rumours that we are talking to him."

Having only broken into the top flight in the middle of 2007, scoring a point on debut with BMW Sauber at Indianapolis before being snapped up by Toro Rosso to replace Scott Speed, Vettel has inked a one-year deal with the Italian team - with BMW still holding an option on him for the future.

Vettel's name joins those of fellow countrymen Nico Rosberg - still considered the favourite to replace Alonso - and former BMW Sauber team-mate Nick Heidfeld among those apparently under consideration to fill the seat alongside Lewis Hamilton next year.

 

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