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Analysis: Is there any way back for Vettel and Ferrari?

Analysis: Is there any way back for Vettel and Ferrari?

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Singapore’s high-profile start line crashes forced Vettel to throw away what arguably could have been an easy victory to re-take the championship lead, instead Hamilton increased his championship to the biggest margin we have seen this season. However, is there any way back for the German in his title bid – history certainly suggests there is…

Although the stewards made it clear that no one drive was responsible for the high-profile crashes, many have casted blame on Vettel, who unnecessarily risked too much, given his main title rival was down in fifth – as he aggressively steered left from pole position to squeeze rivals Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen.

Max Verstappen, who was one of the victims of the start-line crash, believes Sebastian Vettel is to blame for the coming together, and risked too much.

Asked by Sky Sports who was to blame, Verstappen said:”Mainly Sebastian [Vettel]. He started squeezing me, maybe he didn’t see Kimi on the left.

“That’s not an excuse – if you’re fighting for the world championship, you shouldn’t take those risks to squeeze someone that much.

“What does he expect? When you’re fighting for a world championship, you shouldn’t do that. It was not very clever.

“I don’t think it was a racing incident. At the end of the day, they take, in total, three cars out.”

Hamilton, who got the “miracle” he was hoping for, with most of Mercedes’ faster rivals eliminated on the opening lap, the British driver took the leader on Lap 1 when Vettel eventually crashed out, and thereafter was unchallenged. Enjoying his third consecutive F1 victory, Hamilton extended his lead by 25 points in the overall drivers’ standings, whilst Mercedes moved more than 100 points clear of Ferrari at the top of the constructors’ championship.

A 28 point lead in the championship for Hamilton with six races to go, it makes it easy to conclude that his championship is Mercedes’ to lose. However other conclusions must be drawn, and Vettel must not be ruled out.

Given the reliability present for Ferrari and Mercedes this season, both Hamilton and Vettel hadn’t had a retirement until Singapore – where Vettel suffered a retirement, and Hamilton went on for the victory. However, it is worth noting that Hamilton could have a retirement this year – which could be down to reliability or a crash, like in the case of Vettel. This could give Vettel as much as a 25 point haul of Lewis Hamilton in the title battle – and would bring the championship back alive. Should this happen in Malaysia (where Vettel wins and Hamilton doesn’t score), Vettel would be just three points adrift of the Briton in the title fight.

Power unit penalties could also play a key role in this years F1 title battle. Mercedes, who have been running their fourth and final power unit since Belgium, are further vulnerable than Ferrari for picking up grid penalties for power units. Ferrari are yet to introduce their fourth power unit. Although the superior reliability present at Mercedes High Performance Powertrains mean that a penalty is unlikely, however one for Hamilton could set him to the back of the grid for one of the remaining Formula 1 races, which could allow Vettel to make a big haul.

Disadvantages and bad luck aside for the Mercedes Formula 1 team and Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 campaign, Ferrari’s outright pace — which has been seen earlier this season — could too rise Vettel back to the fighting position at the sharp end of this F1 title.

Although there are no more Singapore or Monaco style race tracks remaining that would put Mercedes at disadvantage, it could be said that some of the upcoming racetracks could play to the strengths of the Ferrari Formula 1 car, which could still give it a shout at this years F1 title.

Hamilton believes certain races will see his team and Scuderia Ferrari closely matched, however admits there may be some races — such as Brazil — where the Ferrari team would have an edge.

“We have Malaysia, where I think we should be OK,” Hamilton said, assessing his teams chances for the remainder of this F1 season.

“Then we have Japan, high downforce circuit; could be close, it definitely won’t be our strongest. Austin, I think we’ll be fine. I think Brazil would be a place where Ferrari will be particularly strong.

“Honestly, I think it’s going to be very close in the next races. It’s hard to predict.

“When you go to Mexico, you put your maximum downforce on but because it’s so high there’s little drag and maybe the cars that have a little bit more downforce might just have the edge on us.”

Ferrari may have a chance at this F1 title on performance alone. However, the team needs Kimi Raikkonen at his very best to ensure he is a close second to Sebastian Vettel — and should have the pace to help Vettel against the Mercedes cars when required — in order to outscore Hamilton on points in the remaining Formula 1 races. Hamilton finishing second to Vettel in the races that the German may win is likely not to be enough for Ferrari’s star driver to secure the championship.

History

Although some may not have logical context, the history remains with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel when it comes to winning the championship, despite his 28-point deficit. It is worth dwelling over the fact that Vettel has never lost a title combat wherein he has led the championship; the German led majority of this F1 season, conceding his lead for the first time at Ferrari’s home race in Monza.

A massive last-minute points recovery – which German Vettel now faces – is not something unusual for the four-time F1 world champion. Two out of his four titles has seen Vettel making massive gains in the second half of the season to take the championship lead; in 2010, the end of the Abu Dhabi GP — the season finale — was the only time he had led the championship that year – when it really mattered.

With six races to go in 2010, Vettel had a 31-point deficit with 6 races to go — in 2017 Vettel needs to make up 28 points in 6 races — and on that occasion Vettel was crowned world champion by four points. Similarly, in 2012, Vettel recovered 42 points in nine races, and was crowned world champion by 3 points.