London: Sebastian Vettel's critical error on the final lap of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix will have raised a flicker of hope among his Formula One rivals, Australian team mate Mark Webber included.
Since the start of the season, they have been searching for a chink in the 23-year-old German's armour and found next to nothing as he sprints towards a second successive world championship.
Even when he has crashed in Friday practice, he has bounced back with the fastest time in qualifying twice already this year.
The Red Bull driver has been on pole position in six of the seven races, with Webber fastest in qualifying for the other, and has started the last 12 races on the front row.
Taking last season into consideration, Vettel has won seven of the last nine races, most of them untroubled by real opposition. When he has not won he has finished second.
In China, where he lost out to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, he was undone by poor strategy but Sunday's clash in Montreal pointed to a human frailty that others will be eager to exploit if given half a chance.
Under pressure from McLaren's Jenson Button, and desperate to stop him getting close enough to activate his moveable rear wing (DRS), Vettel cracked in Montreal and made a mistake that cost him victory.
The German has only dropped 14 points out of a possible 175, leaving him 60 clear of closest rival Button, and it will take a monumental effort to rein him in over the remaining 12 races.
But rivals will sense that if they can put him under enough pressure on the track, and that means clever strategy and qualifying high enough for races run in normal conditions, they have a chance of keeping him off the top of the podium.
"To do the mistake in the last lap, which was probably only the real mistake I did in the whole race, at the moment it is not very sweet," a smarting Vettel said.
"But that's how it goes. I think we are all pushing very hard and sometimes do mistakes. I have no problem to admit that I went a little bit wide and if it would have been dry there would have been no problem."
Vettel has been driving brilliantly this season from the front, so much so that it is easy to forget just how young he is and how few races he has done comparatively, and team principal Christian Horner was quick to absolve him of blame.
Horner also made a point that will resonate with all Formula One fans after a race in which both the stewards and race direction had to be applauded for their decisions.
Asked during the lengthy rain stoppage whether he wanted the race re-started or called off and half-points awarded -- with Vettel leading and all his main rivals out of the scoring positions -- the Red Bull boss said it had to be the former.
"Because we're racers," he explained. "Sometimes it's not just about winning, it's about how you win as well.
"I think that it's right for the fans, right for the crowd that's come out here today, to get the race going again.
"Who knows, hopefully we'll manage to hang on to the lead until the end of the race. But I think it's the right thing for Formula One," said Horner.
Sunday was a day when the sport, after drawing so much criticism and appearing so muddled the previous week in deciding first to reschedule the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix and then doing a U-turn, got it right.
The race directors made the correct call in listening to drivers and stopping the race when it was too dangerous to continue.
The stewards, one of them former champion Emerson Fittipaldi, got it spot on in deciding to take no further action over racing incidents involving Button, who had been 21st at the re-start, and thereby confirming one of the sport's all-time epic drives.
There were no appeals from rival teams that might also have taken the gloss off a magical, if very wet, afternoon. And the race was a thriller.
"We knew we had to put pressure on Sebastian and he made a mistake. You can forgive him for that," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
"He's driven so well this year but Jenson was just incredible. That's the stuff of champions, that's the stuff of dreams".
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