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Vettel set for 3rd F1 title run

BERLIN — Sebastian Vettel aims to become the youngest driver to win a hat trick of titles when the longest Formula One season yet begins this weekend in Australia.

The 24-year-old German could better five-time winner Juan Manuel Fangio and compatriot Michael Schumacher, the record seven-time world champion for whom the 2012 season looks likely to be a second farewell.

"All good things come in threes, and that would of course be something great, but until then, there's a long way to go," Vettel said.

After Vettel's Red Bull team dominated the past two seasons, rivals look slightly more confident of their prospects for a season featuring a record six current and former world champions.

Heading into the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, all signs from preseason testing have shown that Ferrari and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso may struggle, but Lotus could be the big surprise. The former Renault team hired 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who returns after two years away from the series.

Red Bull's biggest challenge could come from McLaren. Last year's runnerup, Jenson Button, and teammate Lewis Hamilton, both former world champions, should contend.

Mercedes again turns to German pair Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. The team's progress could well affect any decision Schumacher, 43, makes about whether to continue.

"The car felt good from the first moment," he said. "We can say that we are very well prepared. But once again, what this means in relation to our competitors is something I can't judge until after the first race."

This season is a 20-race marathon that includes the inaugural race in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 18, the first race in the United States since 2007.

F1 driver lineup

No., driver Team/engine

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault

2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault

3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes

4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes

5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari

6. Felipe Massa Ferrari

7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes

8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes

9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault

10. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault

11. Paul Di Resta Force India-Mercedes

12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes

14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari

15. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari

16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari

17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari

18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault

19. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault

20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault

21. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault

22. Pedro De La Rosa HRT-Cosworth

23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth

24. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth

25. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth

Schedule

Sunday: Australian GP, Melbourne. March 25: Malaysian GP, Kuala Lumpur. April 15: Chinese GP, Shanghai. April 22: Bahrain GP, Sakhir. May 13: Spanish GP, Barcelona. May 27: Monaco GP, Monte Carlo. June 10: Canadian GP, Montreal. June 24: European GP, Valencia, Spain. July 8: British GP, Silverstone. July 22: German GP, Hockenheim. July 29: Hungarian GP, Budapest. Sept. 2: Belgian GP, Spa-Francorchamps. Sept. 9: Italian GP, Monza. Sept. 23: Singapore GP, Marina Bay. Oct. 7: Japanese GP, Suzuka. Oct. 14: Korean GP, Yeongam. Oct. 28: Indian GP, Greater Noida. Nov. 4: Abu Dhabi GP, Abu Dhabi. Nov. 18: United States GP, Austin, Texas. Nov. 25: Brazilian GP, Sao Paulo

Vettel set for 3rd F1 title run 03/15/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 15, 2012 10:15pm]
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