ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- World champion Sebastian Vettel won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in dominant fashion Sunday to clinch a seventh straight victory and 11th of the season.
Although the German had already clinched his fourth consecutive world title at the Indian GP last weekend, he pledged there would be no let up. Starting from second on the grid, Vettel overtook his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber on the first turn and was untroubled after that.
"Obviously, winning is very special," Vettel said. "Seven races in a row — every single one is tough."
He beat second-placed Webber by 30.8 seconds and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg by 33.6 seconds. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was fourth and two-time former champion Fernando Alonso finished fifth — although stewards were investigating the Spaniard for a passing move on Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne late on.
Vettel now has 37 career race wins and, with two races left, can match Michael Schumacher's single-season record of 13 wins in 2004 — during which the German also won seven in a row. Schumacher also won 11 races in 2002.
Vettel looked stunned when told he had just matched Schumacher's run of seven wins in a row in one campaign.
"I remember watching Formula One as a kid (when) Michael was dominating for Ferrari," Vettel said.
Vettel can set a single-season record with eight straight at the United States Grand Prix in two weeks' time. Then, victory at the season-ending Brazilian GP a week later would match Italian Alberto Ascari's long-standing overall record of nine straight, spanning the 1952-53 seasons.
"People see seven races they don't see the challenge it takes every race to nail it," Vettel added. "We got everything right, pit stops, reliability. The numbers aren't that important to me but equally they make me very, very proud."
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told Vettel over the car radio, "that was a champion's drive,' with the German driver responding with his trademark high-pitched whooping sound.
"It's not often you get to drive a car like this. I love you guys, thank you," Vettel said before climbing out of his car and hugging his waiting parents.
Just like last weekend, Vettel celebrated the win with a few screeching doughnuts on the Yas Marina circuit. He was fined last time, but is unlikely to care too much.
He will look to match Schumacher's record with wins at the U.S Grand Prix in two weeks' time and the season-ending Brazilian GP a week later.
Webber's last win was at the British GP in July last year and the 37-year-old never looked like making it 10 career wins.
The Australian has never been known for his pure speed and made a poor start, allowing Vettel to pass him on the outside on turn one as Rosberg came up from fifth to second.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton went the other way, dropping from fourth to fifth as Grosjean got ahead of him. Force India driver Paul di Resta finished sixth ahead of Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
Because qualifying and the race itself are held at twilight, the track is considerably cooler allowing drivers to avoid the stifling daytime heat.
Before the race started Hamilton experienced problems with his rear right brake, prompting a flurry of activity from Mercedes mechanics.
But Kimi Raikkonen's day proved even more difficult with the Finn retiring on lap one with suspension damage.
"The Caterham only touched a little bit the front wheel, but the angle was so bad it damaged my suspension," Raikkonen said.
The 2007 world champion threatened not to race at all because Lotus has not paid his wages all year. Then he qualified fifth only to be demoted to the back of the grid after his car failed a post-qualifying inspection because of an illegal floor.
With 10 laps to go, Alonso went off the track after nearly colliding with Vergne's Toro Rosso. Stewards were investigating whether Alonso stayed within the track limits.
Two-time former champion Alonso has not won a race since the Spanish GP in May, but with Raikkonen out he consolidated second place in the drivers' standings.h