Singapore: Sebastian Vettel snatched last year`s Formula One title with victory in the final race of the season but the German may need only a podium finish in Singapore on Sunday to clinch his second crown with five rounds remaining.
Leading by 112 points after 13 of the 19 races, the 24-year-old Red Bull driver`s coronation as the youngest ever double world champion looks an inevitable conclusion to a campaign in which he has already enjoyed eight wins.
Vettel can achieve his goal this weekend if he leaves Singapore with a 125-point advantage over his nearest rival, currently Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso, but the German is refusing to claim the title is in the bag.
"Looking to the championship, there is still some way to go. We are in a very strong position, which we deserve because we`ve been working hard and made few mistakes," Vettel said.
"As long as we come out of the next race with a bigger lead then we start with, then we have done a good job, so let`s see."
For Vettel to say Red Bull are in a strong position is an understatement given that the team have qualified on pole for every race so far this season and responded brilliantly whenever their main rivals have improved.
Alonso revels in the demands of the 5.073-km Marina Bay Circuit, winning the series` only night race on two of the three previous occasions it has been held, but Vettel intends to improve on last year`s second place.
"I love the track, it`s very challenging; there are a lot of corners, it`s very long, it`s hot and it`s a night race, so there are a lot of special things about Singapore," he said.
"The car seems to be very competitive there, so I hope we can go back there this year and win... it would be very special."
Alonso`s pursuit of Vettel has been a forlorn one since the German won the opening race in Melbourne but the Spaniard will be hoping to end the season with a strong finish.
"Our aim...will be to win the race. After practice and qualifying we will see where we are exactly. But now, before the race, there is one clear aim," Alonso said.
"Our expectations are always very high," added the double champion. "We are Ferrari so we know that we need to keep fighting, and we need to be competitive."
While fighting for race wins, Ferrari already have one eye on next year and building a better car than the one that took Alonso four races to get on the podium this season.
"Next year we will start again preparing the winter and the season in the best way possible, and try and fight for the world championship," he said.
The other drivers who are still mathematically in the title chase are Vettel`s Red Bull team mate Mark Webber and the McLaren pair Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
All three have virtually conceded the championship, although they could stop Vettel taking the title on Sunday, and are now locked in a battle for second place with Briton Hamilton hoping to repeat his 2009 victory around the Singapore streets.
"I really want to make sure we arrive in Singapore with a good set-up, and that we`re able to run with it through practice and qualifying," the 2008 world champion said. "If it all goes to plan, we should be in good shape on Sunday.”
"Even though the title is now almost out of reach I`ll be pushing hard for the best possible result. I will never give up and I`ll be driving to win as always."