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Nothing less than best will do in title battle, says Ferrari’s Vettel

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 7 October 2017 01:04

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters): Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday that his Ferrari team will have to be at their best if he is to overhaul Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One world championship battle.

“I think it’s pretty clear we need to do our best,” the German, who trails his Mercedes rival by 34 points in the overall standings with five of this season’s 20 races to go, told reporters at the Japanese Grand Prix.

“We need to score more than them. How we achieve it, it doesn’t matter, as long as we achieve it.

“But obviously it’s much more straightforward if we get our optimum and ideally win a lot of races, then we’ll have a better chance.”

The last two races in Singapore and Malaysia have been particularly costly for Vettel, winner of four races this year to Hamilton’s seven. The 30-year-old crashed out on the opening lap in Singapore, letting Hamilton through to win from fifth.

He finished a remarkable fourth in Malaysia after having started last due to a power unit problem in qualifying, but dropped further behind the Briton who finished second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Having gone into last month’s Italian Grand Prix in the overall lead, Vettel has lost 41 points to the triple champion in the last three races alone. If Hamilton, winner of three of the last four races, leaves Suzuka with an advantage of at least 29 points over Vettel, he can potentially beat the German to the title without stepping on the top step of the podium again.

But the four-time champion can draw encouragement from the speed Ferrari displayed in Malaysia, where he set the fastest race lap and a lap record on his charge through the field.

Vettel, who can already take heart from news that he won’t need a new gearbox after a bizarre post-race collision with Williams rookie Lance Stroll in Malaysia, expects Ferrari to be competitive this weekend even if Mercedes rediscover their lost pace.

“The last three years I think we were competitive but not competitive enough to win,” he said, expressing confidence that the engine issues that struck him and team mate Kimi Raikkonen in Malaysia had been resolved.

“This year it’s different.”

Vettel sets early pace from Hamilton in Suzuka

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters): Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel pulled out a late flier around the Suzuka Circuit to set the pace ahead of Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton in Friday’s first practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The German set a benchmark time of one minute, 29.166 seconds around 15 minutes from the end of the 90-minute session to edge out championship leader Hamilton by 0.211 seconds.

The Briton had occupied top spot on the timesheets in his Mercedes but Vettel was just 0.042 seconds using the slower soft tyres and went quicker once he switched to the stickier super-softs on an overcast morning with a constant threat of rain.

The German’s pace, unleashed just as the rain intensified into a heavy drizzle, appears to have laid down an early marker of Ferrari’s potential ahead of Sunday’s race.

The four-time champion is due some luck after successive setbacks in the last two races have left him 34 points behind Hamilton in the overall standings with just five of the season’s 20 races remaining.

Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth fastest, were both running an upgraded aerodynamic package but it was not immediately clear whether the reigning champions had rediscovered their lost speed in Suzuka’s cooler conditions.


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