Vettel eyes Hamilton’s taillights
Trailing by 40 points, he is hoping to bring glory back to Ferrari
● Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel says he still has a fair chance of catching Lewis Hamilton in their title battle.
Vettel is 40 points behind Hamilton, who has taken three wins in the past four races, sometimes against the run of form.
Vettel said: “We have had races we should have won but didn’t and others we won and shouldn’t have. Anything is possible. I’m not aiming to win all six races. I’m aiming to win here [the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi] and then we go to the next one.”
Vettel’s fate is still in his own hands — if the German wins every race before the end of the season, he will win the title, regardless of Hamilton’s results.
He said: “It is very simple from where we are. We are some points behind and we need to catch up to make sure we stay there.
“The best way to do that is to finish ahead and ideally ahead of everybody. The plan doesn’t change. Obviously at this point we try to give it everything we have and I still believe we have a chance.”
Ferrari have had the fastest car for much of the season, but Vettel admitted the team had not met their own expectations in recent races and needed to up their game.
“We expect to be competitive,” he said, “but we have to take into account the last couple of races where we struggled to have the pace and put it together for different reasons, so we need to not get distracted by the results and focus on the job we have to do.”
Hamilton denied he already had one hand on the title: “I don’t think you ever have one hand on it,” he said. “You either have both hands on it or you don’t. There is still a long way to go, a lot of points available, six races is still a lot of races.
“We’re just head down and everyone is working hard to improve the car.”
The race, held on a track that circulates around the Olympic Park in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, is set to be between only Mercedes and Ferrari.
The other top team, Red Bull, will have both cars at the back of the grid as a result of new engines being fitted. Both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo have already exceeded the permitted number of engine parts this season so taking new engines, which are required to make it to the end of the season, means a drop to the back.
Verstappen said that the engines fitted for this weekend were the less powerful Renault B-spec units, rather than the C-spec they used at the last race in Singapore.
Apart from the title race, the story that’s been doing the rounds of late is the question of whatever happened to F1’s most ruthlessly successful team — Ferrari?
The story of Ferrari’s 2018 season has been one of not achieving perfection.
The result is Hamilton has an increasingly insurmountable-looking advantage in the title race, despite his Mercedes being — for most of the season — only the second-fastest car on the grid.
If Vettel does fail to overhaul Hamilton in the remaining six races, it will be 10 years since Ferrari won a world championship title, and the fourth time in that period that a golden opportunity slipped away.
It is all so different from the first years of this century, which began with Ferrari utterly dominant, as the most ruthlessly successful F1 team ever constructed helped Michael Schumacher deliver five consecutive world titles. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari’s intended replacement as the team’s lead driver, benefited from the momentum of that success. Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, the architects of Ferrari’s engineering excellence, left at the end of 2006, but the 2007 car was effectively designed on their watch.
In it, the Finn ultimately secured what remains Ferrari’s last driver’s title, by just one point from McLaren drivers Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who tied on points.
Ferrari’s car remained absolutely competitive into 2008, by which time Jean Todt had left his position as team boss and handed over to Stefano Domenicali.
This time, Felipe Massa led Ferrari’s charge, and the Brazilian missed out at the last corner of the final race, as Hamilton took the fifth position he needed to clinch the title in a chaotic dry-wet Brazil Grand Prix.
But by 2009 the momentum was fading, and the car was uncompetitive, Raikkonen taking only a single victory before being paid to leave the team at the end of the year so he could be replaced by Alonso.
You either have both hands on it or you don’t Lewis Hamilton F1 world champion