PRANC­ING HORSE HOB­BLED

F1 Racing (UK) - - INSIDER -

Ruth­less­ness and its con­se­quences have played a ma­jor role in the re­mark­able twists and turns in the ti­tle fight be­tween Lewis Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel dur­ing the three Asian races. The pro­tag­o­nists went to Sin­ga­pore with even Mercedes ex­pect­ing a Vet­tel vic­tory at Ma­rina Bay and for Seb to re­gain the cham­pi­onship lead.

But when Vet­tel crashed out af­ter spear­ing across the track at the start while try­ing to de­fend from Max Ver­stap­pen, the com­plex­ion of the cham­pi­onship changed. And, since then, the mo­men­tum has been with Hamil­ton.

In Malaysia and Ja­pan, Fer­rari were at fault. At Sepang, iden­ti­cal fail­ures in the man­i­fold be­tween the com­pres­sor and en­gine, first in Vet­tel’s car in qual­i­fy­ing, and then in Räikkö­nen’s on the grid, let Hamil­ton extend his lead at a race where Mercedes had only the third-fastest car.

And then in Ja­pan came what may prove to be the de­ci­sive blow. An­other en­gine prob­lem – this time a spark plug – led to Vet­tel’s re­tire­ment af­ter four stut­ter­ing laps. Hamil­ton, with four wins and a P2 in five races since the sum­mer break, goes into the fi­nal four races with a 59-point lead.

Fer­rari’s sea­son has im­ploded in just six weeks. Vet­tel said it felt “bit­ter” but spoke of “pro­tect­ing” the team. This sort of thing wore down Alonso af­ter five bathetic sea­sons at Maranello, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see the re­sponse this time.

Hamil­ton’s fourth ti­tle is surely now in the bag, but Vet­tel and Fer­rari could yet de­lay it if they can get their act back to­gether. Mercedes have been fear­ing the Mex­i­can GP for some time and are un­easy about Brazil and Abu Dhabi, too.

As for Alonso, his fu­ture is un­de­cided; a new Mclaren con­tract un­signed. But it’s thought he will com­mit be­fore Austin, mak­ing the US GP crit­i­cal on all lev­els.

“FER­RARI’S SEA­SON HAS IM­PLODED IN JUST SIX WEEKS… THIS SORT OF THING WORE DOWN ALONSO AF­TER FIVE BATHETIC SEA­SONS AT MARANELLO

Fer­rari en­gine is­sues in both Malaysia and Ja­pan have eroded Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s ti­tle hopes

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