Ferrari speed gives some hope to Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari speed gives some hope to Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari speed gives some hope to Sebastian Vettel

He is now looking at a 34 point deficit to Lewis Hamilton out front, and with five races left, and seven more points available for first place compared to second, he must win every race to be certain of winning the title regardless of what Hamilton does.

Hamilton meanwhile did not have such reliability problems but could not catch race-winner Max Verstappen's Red Bull and was nearly troubled by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. They had brought aerodynamic upgrades to Sepang which did not improve performance and contributed to the difficulty they had with balance, set-up and grip.

While the excitement of race day reduced the sweltering heat and humidity, which consistently hovers in the high 80s Fahrenheit (above 26 degrees Centigrade), to a mere footnote, it was Ferrari who looked the real deal in practice and qualifying with Raikkonen on the front row. It was just a couple of years old then and it was such a path-breaking venue in terms of a modern Grand Prix circuit. "There have been other issues, like last weekend, as it was being a very nice weekend, I was very happy with the auto, with how it was handling and doing the things that we wanted it to, so for sure we have improved the vehicle and the speed".

I don't think it's something that's easy to fix, either, because if they had a clear answer and understanding of how to address that they would have by now as there are some extremely clever people on that pitwall.

"We know how important that race is for the team".

Knowing that a tussle with Verstappen could jeopardize his championship hopes and acknowledging the superior pace of the Red Bull, Hamilton did not even make an attempt to defend the pass. "The long game approach I took, I believe, is the right one".

And Ferrari's mechanics can at least breathe a sigh of relief knowing they do not need to unpack a fresh gearbox in Suzuka.

He is confident that the tyre temperature issue which appears central to the car's grip and its performance will be mitigated for the next race this weekend. Maybe Max third, Lewis fourth. "I am not that anxious to be honest, but we need to get on top of the problem".

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That's the opinion of the team's head of motorsport, Toto Wolff.

From 2018 onwards, there will be no Malaysian GP and how exciting was the last race to watch! The race was very hot. "It was probably the hardest race of my career, on a weekend in which I feared I would need to give up".

Suzuka - Sebastian Vettel has played down Ferrari's reliability issues before this week's crunch Japanese Grand Prix, insisting it was no time for panic.

"I think in the beginning, straight away the vehicle felt good and I saw Lewis struggling a bit with traction and he was clipping a bit more than me, so I used my battery as much as I could and of course he has more to lose than me in the championship so I went for it in Turn 1 and from there I could my own race".

Despite this, their talent hasn't gone unnoticed, and according to former motor racing correspondent for The Times Kevin Eason, Mercedes are "half way" to signing Verstappen.

"I think we're quite confident that the auto will be where we've been lately".

Vettel fears he is likely to take a grid penalty at Suzuka on Sunday, after his collision with Lance Stroll on the slowing-down lap in Sepang. Vettel's vehicle took major damage in the incident and should his gearbox require replacement he will incur a five-place penalty in Japan. Over team radio and in press briefings the Spaniard will not hold back on his opinion - but now his rookie team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne has taken his chance to leapfrog his revered colleague in the drivers' standings.

"We'll check [the gearbox] but yeah, that could be another bad surprise this weekend", Vettel said. There is still a lot work to be done and I am focusing completely on that and not getting lost in daydreams of what might happen on Sunday.

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