Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Sport | By Tony Jimenez

Lewis Hamilton surprised by Ferrari's drop in performance

Lewis Hamilton surprised by Ferrari's drop in performance

The Briton now has a 67-point lead over Vettel with four races remaining and can sew up the championship next week with victory in Austin should the German finish lower than second.

But Wolff has warned against complacency after Vettel could only finish sixth following an early collision with Red Bull's Max Verstappen. Meanwhile, Vettel gained pace in the opening stint and was quick to take fourth from eighth place.

But disaster struck just eight circuits into the Grand Prix when he attempted a gung-ho, and unrealistic move on Verstappen as he decelerated from 190mph at the Spoon curve.

There was an early collision with Sauber driver Charles Leclerc hitting the rear tire of Kevin Magnussen resulting in a puncture and bringing out the safety auto. His championship hopes were up in smoke. Perhaps the stewards viewed the puncture as punishment enough, but in an incident-packed Japanese Grand Prix, this had the biggest potential for a serious accident.

It's the latest in a long list of missed opportunities for Vettel this season, who is now 50 points adrift of title rival Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

But his Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is guarding against late complacency, and says he can not even bring himself to think of Hamilton's championship victory before the title is fully in his grasp.

"I definitely hadn't anticipated that they would tail off as they have". "The performances have not been coming as strong as they were before". This is what happens in head-to-head battles with top competitors. "Even though they are still performing great, one of them can't always perform the same. I've been grateful to have also delivered when the team have delivered".

Hamilton was in total control, but while Mercedes looked to be heading to an easy one-two after the pit stops, his team-mate Valtteri Bottas found himself under pressure from Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

He will head to Tokyo for a Tommy Hilfiger fashion event on Monday evening, before checking in at the Mercedes factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire on Wednesday.

After the race, the FIA's Charlie Whiting said Verstappen "clearly deserved" his penalty. 'But it is one thing dreaming about it and another executing it.

"When we were having the race like Monza - for me, I loved that race", he said.

Asked who made the decision, he said: "Does it matter?"

Hamilton will fancy his chances of doing just that given his record at the U.S. Grand Prix, where he has won every race but one since 2012.

The Australian eventually taking a strong fourth place as Red Bull out-strategised Ferrari, who had another disappointing race overall in a season that promised so much but which has unravelled dramatically in its second half.

Like this: