Sunday Times

Vet­tel eyes Hamil­ton’s tail­lights

Trail­ing by 40 points, he is hop­ing to bring glory back to Fer­rari

- Sports · Formula One · Car Racing · Motorsports · Sebastian Vettel · Lewis Hamilton · Ferrari S.p.A. · Mercedes GP · Red Bull GmbH · Max Verstappen · Daniel Ricciardo · Renault Co · Singapore · Michael Schumacher · McLaren · Fernando Alonso · Brazil · Sochi · Kimi Räikkönen · Ross Brawn · Rory Byrne · Jean Todt · Felipe Massa

● 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

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