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The only thing holding Vettel back is Vettel himself - Can Sebastian take his first F1 World Championship this year?

Published by Christine

All of a sudden, Sebastian Vettel appears to be happy again. For the last few months, he's been slipping into a worrying state of grumpiness, brought on, we assumed, by the pressure on him to try and win the championship. It must be something when Bernie Ecclestone puts his money on you to take the title. On the TV coverage over this weekend at Monza though, young Seb was seen smiling, perhaps even laughing, despite it being a tough weekend for Red Bull.

Smiles all around in Monza
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The more I think about it, the more it makes a lot of sense. Vettel started the year in an incredibly good mood. He had a fast car, practically unbeatable in qualifying, and pole position was his for the taking every time. The pole-to-win conversion could have been a lot better, but the points were pouring in. What's not to like?

The problems really seemed to kick in when teammate Mark Webber uttered his immortal words: "Not bad for a number two driver." Prior to this, Vettel was clearly starting to get frustrated, but to be faced with your teammate winning despite everything being handed to you on a plate, that must really be quite galling. Then your teammate rubs it in your face, much to the delight of the viewing public.

From where I'm sitting, that was the low point. Perhaps it dawned on the German that even if you do try and contrive a situation where you are the favourite, you cannot control F1. Things happen even to the best drivers, and luck can swing both ways. He then went on to drive into not one but two cars at Spa, and maybe that's what he needed to get it out of his system.

Suddenly, like a breath of fresh air, Vettel is relaxed about the championship. What will be, will be, and you can only do your best. Something like that anyway. After the Italian Grand Prix, his new calmer attitude was evident.

Obviously you want to be ahead, but that is not our position. All we can do is try and have days like here, which is to achieve our maximum. Today it was fourth, maybe next time it is winning, maybe in two races' time it is third. As long as we achieve that, we are doing everything we can to win the championship. One of the lessons of last year is to never stop believing. So there is not need to rush things and no need to panic.

- Sebastian Vettel

This is strikingly similar to the emotional rollercoaster Jenson Button went on last year, before he clinched the title with Brawn GP. In the middle of the season, things just weren't going his way, the development of the car seemed to be moving away from him, and he was letting his rivals catch up and get worryingly close to him. With just a few races left in the season, a new clarity seemed to cross Button's mind. He relaxed a little, enough to allow him to race hard when it mattered, and that's what saw him become the World Champion in 2009.

It's not going to be easy for Vettel, currently sitting fifth in the championship. But all five drivers are still in it, and Sebastian seems to have turned the corner that means the rest of the season should be brighter for him. The questions that remain are whether Webber (currently leading) will suffer the same pressure as we draw towards the end of the season, and who - out of the five contenders - can keep their head about them enough to take the title in 2010.