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Vettel: No easing up after clinching F1 title

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - World champion Sebastian Vettel scoffed at suggestions he has nothing to gain from the last three races of the season, saying he's intent on a seventh straight win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Vettel clinched the Formula One title at the Indian GP on Sunday to become the youngest four-time champion. He celebrated a bit before focusing on this this weekend's race in Abu Dhabi - where he won the inaugural event in 2009 and earned his first title a year later.

''It was a great feeling. We had a little bit of fun in the hotel bar,'' Vettel said of the celebration. ''It was good to sober up after India and get ready for here.''

The 26-year-old Vettel's level of perfection means more demands on himself.

''We don't approach the weekend as if there is nothing to gain,'' Vettel said Thursday. ''We love what we are doing and enjoy the challenge and that is why there is not even a question about why we are here and what we have to do. We want to race the others as hard as possible.''

Red Bull has secured the constructors' championship and has a huge 157-point lead over Mercedes. However, that makes little difference to Vettel.

''I need the team and the team needs (teammate) Mark (Webber) and myself to push the car to the limit,'' he said.

Behind Vettel and Red Bull, it's a race for second.

Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso has 207 points and holds a 24-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen in third place.

''We need to be realistic, knowing that we didn't have the chance this year to fight for the championship,'' Alonso said. ''In the beginning of the year, we were a little bit closer. But then we were not quick enough. We are fighting now for other targets.''

British driver Lewis Hamilton seems too far back with 169 points in fourth, but is vital to Mercedes' bid to finish second in the constructors' race.

Mercedes, with 313 points, and Ferrari, with 309, are close while Lotus stands at 285.

As usual, Alonso was asked whether he is still happy at Ferrari. Tensions between him and management surfaced following the Hungarian GP at the end of July.

''It's fantastic, obviously every weekend I repeat the same thing. So, I guess (at the U.S. GP) in Austin the first question in the press conference will be `How is my relationship with the team,''' Alonso said. ''It was perfect, it's perfect and it will be perfect.''

Hamilton won the Hungarian GP to suddenly emerge as Vettel's main challenger, but his bid for a second F1 title has completely faded.

While Vettel has won all six races since the midseason break, Hamilton has managed only one third-place finish.

''They (Red Bull) have just raised the bar and everyone else needs to just work harder,'' Hamilton said. ''There are always lots of areas that can be improved on for me and the team, and we don't want to carry any of the negatives into next year.''

The Abu Dhabi GP starts in daylight and ends under floodlights, with track temperature dropping at twilight on the 3.45-mile Yas Marina Circuit.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written
consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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