OVER AT FER­RARI...

03

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

All th­ese driv­ers are fight­ing over the scraps left af­ter Fer­rari opted to stick with Kimi Räikkönen for an­other year, an­nounc­ing his new con­tract be­fore Spa, and just days be­fore Seb Vettel signed a new three-year deal to stay at Maranello un­til the end of 2020.

Fer­rari must there­fore now be con­sid­ered less likely to be in­ter­ested in ei­ther of the Red Bull driv­ers once Räikkönen’s con­tract runs out at the end of 2018, since Vettel would coun­te­nance nei­ther. Daniel Ric­cardo, who beat Vettel when they were team-mates at Red Bull in 2014, has al­ready said he would not join Fer­rari to be a “brides­maid”. Ver­stap­pen also has no in­ter­est in play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to Vettel, the role Räikkönen has this year.

Fer­rari pro­tégé Charles Le­clerc is ex­pected to be placed at Sauber with a view to mov­ing him to the top team in 2019. In the mean­time, Räikkönen’s will­ing­ness to ac­cept a num­ber-two driver role helps to main­tain Fer­rari’s fo­cus on Vettel’s bid to be­come the first Fer­rari world cham­pion since 2007, a cam­paign that may have reached a piv­otal point at the team’s home race in Monza.

“RÄIKKÖNEN’S WILL­ING­NESS TO AC­CEPT A NUM­BER-TWO DRIVER ROLE HELPS TO MAIN­TAIN FER­RARI’S FO­CUS ON VETTEL’S BID TO BE­COME THE FIRST FER­RARI WORLD CHAM­PION SINCE 2007

There, Hamil­ton’s dom­i­nant drive from pole to win made him the most suc­cess­ful qual­i­fier in F1 his­tory, break­ing Michael Schu­macher’s record of 68 poles, and mov­ing him into the lead of the cham­pi­onship for the first time in 2017.

Monza was a sober­ing week­end for Fer­rari. In Spa, the week be­fore, they had been sur­pris­ingly com­pet­i­tive on a track ex­pected to favour Mercedes. Vettel pushed Hamil­ton all the way, pro­vok­ing Lewis to pro­nounce that the Fer­rari had been the faster car. At Monza, though, Fer­rari were never in the game – slow in the wet in qual­i­fy­ing and an av­er­age of nearly 0.7s per lap off the pace in a race that Vettel ended more than half a minute be­hind his rival.

In Spa, Hamil­ton had said he was re-en­er­gised af­ter the sum­mer break. “I am here for blood, here to win and here to stay,” he said. In Monza he spoke of the “em­pow­er­ing” feel­ing of tak­ing the cham­pi­onship lead. “Ear­lier in the year [Vettel’s lead] was 20 points or some­thing like that so I am going to see if he can have that feel­ing for a while,” he said.

Nei­ther he nor Mercedes were mak­ing as­sump­tions. Sin­ga­pore casts a shadow over Mercedes, partly due to their weak per­for­mances there and partly be­cause the Fer­rari has ex­celled all year on low-grip, slow tracks. Hamil­ton said he felt the lessons of Spa and Monza “should col­lec­tively put us in a bet­ter po­si­tion for Sin­ga­pore”, then quickly added: “But I still think Fer­rari are going to be quick there.”

For some weeks, Mercedes have been talk­ing about a Fer­rari win at Ma­rina Bay be­ing in­evitable. If that hap­pens, Vettel will be back in the lead again. For the rest of the year, though, the ad­van­tage is likely to swing back and forth, with races de­cided by fine mar­gins. Be­fore Hamil­ton’s vic­tory at Monza, Wolff re­peated his view that the fight would go down to the wire. At the mo­ment, its hard to see how it could do any­thing else.

“FOR SOME WEEKS, MERCEDES HAVE BEEN TALK­ING ABOUT A FER­RARI WIN AT MA­RINA BAY BE­ING IN­EVITABLE. IF THAT HAP­PENS, VETTEL WILL BE BACK IN THE LEAD AGAIN

Vettel is signed up with Fer­rari to the end of 2020, while Räikkönen’s con­tract has been ex­tended by an­other year

Lewis took the ti­tle lead from Seb for the first time this sea­son in Monza, but the ad­van­tage looks set to swing back and forth

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