As he reinforced his dominance on the season with a sixth win of 2013 on Sunday, Sebastian Vettel's rivals acknowledged at Monza the German is on course to be a four-time world champion. With seven races still to run this year, the Red Bull driver's closest challenger is Fernando Alonso -- and the Spaniard's deficit is 53 points.
That means that if the Red Bull simply comes second for the rest of the year, with Alonso's Ferrari managing an unlikely seven-race winning streak, Vettel will still be champion after November's Brazil finale. "I think we need to be realistic about the championship now -- there's a very big gap," Alonso said after finishing second in Italy.
"We don't have enough races (left) and probably we don't have the speed right now. We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNFs from Sebastian or something to win the championship," he added.
Lewis Hamilton is a further 28 points adrift, so he got out of his Mercedes on Sunday and admitted: "Obviously that's that for the championship." Later, after a shower and a team debrief, the Briton insisted he's actually not giving up. But even his boss Toto Wolff admitted to German reporters that continuing to charge for the title is now an "unrealistic" goal.
So with the title looking like a Vettel whitewash, the bigger talking point after the Italian grand prix was the behaviour of the Ferrari-loving 'tifosi'. They chanted, booed and whistled throughout the German national anthem, moving Vettel's teammate Mark Webber - hardly a big fan of the 26-year-old - to surmise that the atmosphere on the podium was "not completely correct".
But Vettel, despite earlier complaining about being booed at Silverstone, seemed less bothered. "I said on the radio on the in-lap that the more booing we get, the better we have done today. It's normal," he told reporters. "I don't blame the people to be honest, I think their love of Ferrari is in their genes."
As for his seemingly inevitable charge for a Michael Schumacher-esque fourth consecutive world championship, the German said he is not celebrating yet. "I don't go for predictions, I go for facts, and fact is that mathematically a number of scenarios are still possible," he told F1's official website. (GMM)