Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes Sebastian Vettel performs at his best when under pressure during a Formula One title fight, pointing to his performances in his previous championship-winning campaigns.
Vettel heads into the second half of the 2017 season 14 points clear of chief title rival Lewis Hamilton after sealing his fourth win of the year at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Following their controversial clash under the Safety Car in Baku, Hamilton suggested Vettel's actions reflect the German's lack of composure under pressure.
The majority of the remaining nine circuits are projected to favour Mercedes' package compared to Ferrari's, with reigning F1 world champion Nico Rosberg expecting the Silver Arrows to pull clear of the Scuderia before the end of the season. However, Horner, who oversaw Vettel's four consecutive championship triumphs as team principal at Red Bull, reckons his former driver's strongest performances of 2017 are yet to come.
"Sebastian is a very focused individual," Horner explained. "He handled pressure extremely well. It was almost the more pressure that came on, the better he would respond to it. Particularly when you got to the business end of the championship, he was remarkably strong in his head and his approach. Generally when you got to the flyaway races, you knew if you were with a sniff of having a crack at the championship that he'd deliver from his side."
This year marks the first time since Vettel's last championship-winning campaign in 2013 that he has held a points lead at this stage of a season. The Ferrari driver also holds an ominous record of having never lost out in a title battle during a season in which he has led the championship.
Horner insists it would be foolish to underestimate Vettel in the title run-in, citing his impressive record in the closing stages of a season, particularly during 2010 and 2012. Vettel snatched a dramatic maiden championship in 2010, taking the title lead for the first time that year with victory at the last race in Abu Dhabi, while four successive victories in the final seven races of 2012 helped him become the youngest-ever triple world champion.
"His approach, his application, his attention to detail, his work ethic were all things that enabled him to deliver those four consecutive titles," he said. "Two of them in 2010 and 2012 went to the wire, 12 in particular. He'd won one race by the time we'd left Europe, [Bahrain], and then he won four on the bounce as soon as we went to Singapore onwards."