PRANCING HORSE HOBBLED
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