Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Hamilton surprised by Ferrari fade as title looms

Lewis Hamilton wins Japanese GP & closes on fifth world title Lewis Hamilton wins Japan Grand Prix; Brendon Hartley 13th
Eugene Bates | 08 October, 2018, 11:09

Kiwi Formula 1 driver Brendon Hartley has been finished 13th at the Japanese Grand Prix won by Lewis Hamilton, after qualifying sixth.

The Ferrari downfall coincides with the appointment of Sebastian Vettel in 2015 after the German won four straight Championships with Red Bull from 2010-13 in a supremely fast vehicle under the guidance of race engineer Adrian Newey.

After the first of the double-header races in Russia, Sebastian Vettel admitted that he was surprised by the team's loss of pace as he qualified more than half a second off the pole position occupied by the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton will retain his world title if he wins the next race at Austin and Vettel fails to finish second.

"If I don't go for that gap and that gap was there, I might as well go home".

Hamilton led serenely throughout as his title rival Sebastian Vettel ran into trouble in his attempt to gain ground from his eighth place on the grid.

Things got worse for a desperate Vettel when he skidded off the track on his only flying lap on slicks to blow any chance of putting pressure on Hamilton.

"We have given everything so far and I believe there's still something we can learn and understand from the auto".

Vettel fought back to sixth, but for Hamilton, there were no such concerns as he marched towards his ninth win of the year, and crossed the line 12.9 seconds clear of Bottas.

"We've gone from strength to strength as a team this year".

Under braking, Vettel barged into the side of Verstappen's Red Bull before spinning round in a flurry of sparks.

Race stewards took no action against either driver.

Despite starting eighth, Ferrari driver Vettel climbed to fourth and attempted to go down the inside of Verstappen, who had already been issued a five-second time penalty for returning to the track unsafely and blocking Kimi Raikkonen after overrunning a chicane, at Spoon on lap eight. As for the collision with Max, I was obviously pushing to pass, I knew he had a penalty, but I also felt that we were fast.

"For me, the gap was there - otherwise I wouldn't do it", Vettel added.

"The Ferraris pulled out of the garage on the inters and I honestly didn't think it was the right decision", said the Briton, who has won five of the last six races to stand on the cusp of retaining his world title.

"This is part of racing, don't get me wrong".

Verstappen marched on not wounded but Vettel's hopes of finishing at least third here and reducing the points damage to Hamilton were over in an instant. I had lost a lot of downforce, but there was not much I could do.

"I just can't catch a break", said Ricciardo, who is leaving Red Bull for Renault at the end of the year.

Told by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner that the Ferrari mechanics might be looking for him in the pit lane, Verstappen shrugged: "That's not my problem, they were too aggressive".

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