Is Vettel’s title challenge over?
Ferrari needs the prayers of every member of the global tifosi fan club, plus perhaps some divine intervention to win this title now.
The Japanese Grand Prix seemed like the final nail in the coffin for the Sebastian Vettelferrari title challenge for 201■. This was a weekend where they needed Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton to make mistakes or suffer from reliability issues. But once again it was the red squad that cracked. With a 67point lead and only four races to go, the question is when rather than if Lewis will clinch his fifth World Championship.
I’ve been hugely impressed with how Mercedes has dealt with this season from Silverstone onwards. After its home race, the Brackleybased squad was on the back foot. Vettel had beaten them a few miles from home and, more ominously, the Ferrari looked like the quicker car. Mercedes had also made big strategic mistakes in Australia and Austria as well as smaller ones in Bahrain, China and Russia, and at all those races I believe that I was right to criticise them.
But the team has rallied and as the season has gone on, they’ve dug deep, made sure they are operationally more slick than their Italian rivals. And, as the pressure ramped up on Vettel and Ferrari to deliver a result for the tifosi, the silver camp just kept their heads down, stuck to their core engineering values and just brought a fast car with sensible tyre choices and racked up the points.
There’s no doubt in my mind that something has changed on the Ferrari car since Monza. On average, the two teams were absolutely joined at the hip. Only 0.006 per cent separated the two teams across the season on Saturday night in Monza. If we look at just the past three races, that gap has become 1.0■4 per cent to Mercedes’ advant
Widening gap: After another disappointing race at Suzuka, Sebastian Vettel trails title rival Lewis Hamilton by 67 points.