Hamilton “not comfortable” with his lead
Lewis Hamilton says that he is “not comfortable at all” with his sizeable lead over championship rival Sebastian Vettel. The British driver leads his German rival by thirty-five points going into this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton told BBC News “”I am under no illusion. I might have the nail a little bit in, but I need to keep hammering it. It is not done until there is no more to push it in.”
“There are so many points available and you have seen other years where things swing. The pendulum can swing. I am hoping if it starts to swing the other way we have enough force to push it back to where it should be.”
Hamilton has gained a point’s lead over Vettel in the past two races after problems for the German and his Ferrari team. While Ferrari has proved stronger in the last two races, Hamilton has had luck on his side as Vettel crashed out on the first lap in Singapore, then started from the back because of an engine problem in Malaysia.
Asked to rate his chances of overhauling Hamilton, Vettel said: “We have a chance. I tend not to rate many things. I think there is a chance and we make sure we use it. We are behind so it depends on what Mercedes are doing.”
Mercedes weren’t competitive as they expected to be Sepang with Hamilton saying they had “definitely still question marks” about the car’s performance but added: “I saw some stories that we had been thrown off the ball or are on the back foot. We’re not”
No change in way Ferrari operates – Vettel
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel says that the team are not making big changes to the way it operates despite two tough weekends in Singapore and Malaysia. Earlier this week, Ferrari’s Sergio Marchionne suggesting that changes were going to be made.
Both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen crashed out on the opening lap in Singapore, while both drivers suffered engine problems in Sepang seeing Vettel starting at the back of the grid and Raikkonen failing to start the race.
The problems have seen Vettel fall thirty-four points behind Hamilton in the drivers and Ferrari fall one hundred and eighteen points behind Mercedes in the constructors championship.
After the race, an “angry” Marchionne suggested there were plans for changes to the organisation but when those comments were put to Vettel, he said: “I heard that as well, not from him, but from the press so I’m not sure it’s put in the right context.
“But what happens on track, happens on track. The thing that happened in Singapore, I don’t think you can take much action. We had a problem in Malaysia that stopped myself and Kimi.”
“So it is normal you try to understand things and it’s normal we have a shift in people. But knowing what is going on internally, there is no panic, no big plans as a reaction.”
Ferrari believes that both Vettel and Raikkonen suffered a similar problem and has found a way to manage it in Japan, they continue to search for a solution.
Raikkonen said “It’s been understood what failed, and obviously it’s been fixed. Nobody can promise that it won’t happen again, but I really doubt that it will happen again.”
Speaking about his gearbox Vettel said he is “quite happy everything is OK.” Ferrari confirmed that it was not damaged in his crash with Lance Stroll after the chequered flag in Malaysia.
News in Brief
Perez feared missing Sepang – Sergio Perez says that he was fearing missing the Malaysian Grand Prix after being struck down by a virus, prior to him battling through to score points. The Mexican said he had only been able to go ahead and compete because Friday’s running was interrupted by bad weather and a red flag.
Can’t be judged on old car – Felipe Massa says that Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta cannot give Williams enough information to see if they are capable of a race seat next season. The three of them are all fighting for a race seat next year, But Massa argued a test in an older-specification car will not be representative.
McLaren under pressure for race winning chassis
Fernando Alonso says that McLaren is under pressure to deliver a chassis which is capable of taking race victories next season, after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen showed the Renault engine’s potential with victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Next season McLaren are switching to Renault power as they look to return to the front of the grid after three difficult seasons with Honda, which has seen the team under deliver. McLaren is considered to have one of the best chassis on the grid, but have not had the power to fight at the front.
The performance in Sepang has raised expectations for next season. Alonso told Sky Sports “We saw in Monza a very good performance from Red Bull at a power circuit so we were already quite happy with that performance but in Malaysia, it was another step forwards.”
“They beat the Mercedes without rain, without any different strategy, without anything so that was good. At the same time that put some pressure on McLaren because that car is quite efficient right now and the Red Bull chassis is quite powerful.”
The Spaniard says that McLaren needs to do their job on the chassis side, as Red Bull has proved that the chassis can deliver race wins.
Despite the difficulties, Alonso says he is proud of the renewed partnership’s best results but the Spaniard remains proud of the project.
“This is the last race with Honda here and after all the difficulties over the last three years, all the lack of results, I am still very proud of this project and it would be nice to end it with a nice race here.”
Magnussen not planning to change driving style
Kevin Magnussen says that he has no plans to change his driving style despite the criticism from other drivers. Fernando Alonso has been the latest driver to criticise his driving style after they made contact in Sepang.
The two made contact as the Spaniard tried to pass him through Turns One and Two at last week’s Malaysian Grand Prix. The Spaniard also said “Hulkenberg is right”, in reference to the spat between Nico Hulkenberg and Magnussen at the Hungarian GP, and “For his driving, we more or less agree with the other drivers, it’s 19-1.”
But the Dane is insisting that he needs to be aggressive to secure points for Haas in the midfield fight, and he would not change his approach until the stewards are giving it the all clear. Magnussen told the media “I expect anyone to make it as hard as possible. Everyone is maxed out on trying to make it as hard as possible for each other.
“What matters to me is what the stewards think. I know that I’m pushing hard and that’s my intention. If it’s fine for the stewards then it’s fine. It’s pretty simple. We are not in a position to just drive into the points.” Magnussen says that Haas needs to fight hard to stay in the points.
“often find myself further up at the beginning of the race because when everyone is together it’s easier to make positions and fight your way up. But once everything settles, your race pace is more important and sometimes when you are in eighth and are not fast.” He added.
Red Bull need less ambitious approach – Verstappen
Max Verstappen says that a less ambitious approach from Red Bull in launching their car next season could help the team to hit the ground running.
The team has traditionally opted to maximise their development over the winter and are one of the one of the last to complete its design. In theory, should give the team an extra performance boost because of increased wind tunnel work, this can cause compromises in terms of preparations for the season ahead.
Red Bull started the season well off the pace, but following Verstappen’s win in Malaysia the team believes it now has the best chassis. Talking about what he felt Red Bull needed to do differently this winter to ensure it started 2018 as competitively as possible, Verstappen said: “I think just some different things in procedures, maybe not so late with the car in terms of bringing it out. That is for the team to really work on, that is not my decision.”
“But for sure they have learned from what happened also this year, with the new regulations. I’m very confident that next year it will be a lot better from the start already.” The Dutchman feels that Red Bull could have been over ambitious and maybe they shouldn’t have waited.
Red Bull has recovered well after the teams problems with wind tunnel correlation and Verstappen said the RB13 was finally the car he had hoped to have at the start of the campaign.
“I think we have learned our lessons and hopefully next year we can start straight away very competitive. It’s a completely different car in terms of my feeling with the balance. It’s a lot more complete.” This season has seen the Dutchman suffer with more reliability issues than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
“Up until Malaysia it was really a season to forget. Now at least there’s a little bit of a positive, even though I still missed a lot of points. In general we’re heading in the right direction and into next year everything should be in a better place.” He added.
I have a 10kg disadvantage – Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson says he is carrying a 10kg weight disadvantage to his Sauber team-mate Pascal Wehrlein which is harming chances to prove he deserves to move up the grid.
Most drivers and teams have battled all year to stay under the weight limit because of the heavier cars. Earlier this year Mercedes had to redesign parts of the car in order to save weight.
Sauber has estimated that Ericsson has been running his car between four and eight kilos overweight on Ericsson’s car this year, and the taller Ericsson says the disadvantage compared to Wehrlein has grown recently.
Wehrlein has scored five points so far, while Ericsson is yet to register and also trails Wehrlein 9-4 in the intra-team qualifying battle. The Swede told Autosport “We’ve been close, but he has good numbers on me, which I don’t really like. It’s also been difficult for me with the weight disadvantage.”
“At the beginning of the year it was a bit less but for the last four or five races it’s been 10 kilos difference. That is a lot of lap time on every lap on every track – usually they say it’s three or four tenths a lap with 10 kilos.”
Ericsson says he has been trying to lose weight “all the time” but the problem is being tall.
Ericsson is keen to move up the grid after three seasons with Sauber but admits remaining at the team for a fourth is now his best chance at staying on the grid in 2018.
That’s all from F1 Today this week and we will be bringing you full coverage of the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend. F1 Today returns next week. Preview here