Sebastian Vettel set to escape Japanese GP gearbox penalty

Wednesday, 04 Oct, 2017

If his tone lacked ultimate confidence, it wasn't surprising.

Hamilton said he had made his theories for how Mercedes could be more competitive at Suzuka clear to the team.

Vettel's display in nearly becoming the first driver in history to achieve a podium finish from the back of the grid, showed the superior speed of the Ferrari, and Hamilton knows it.

Race day began with Ferrari planning on Raikkonen to take as many points off Hamilton as possible so as to minimise the points gain he would get over Vettel who was starting in last place.

Fortunately for him, Mercedes looked vulnerable in Malaysia, with their race pace proving inferior to both the Ferraris and Red Bulls.

It continues a dire run of results for Ferrari, even if the pace has fluctuated.

"That's a fact. It could have also been the same at Singapore, that's another fact".

With five races to go, Hamilton now leads by 34 points, meaning he remains on-course to claim a fourth world title in 2017.

Ferrari have won 228 races since 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114, Mercedes 73 and Red Bull 54. It's great to see them performing so well and we want them to be closer. But we have been really fortunate here, and that's down to our engines which are really strong.

Valtteri Bottas
GETTYValtteri Bottas has struggled to control his Mercedes in recent weeks

Vettel then encountered further problems in the first part of qualifying when his auto lost power.

In theory, Vettel had faster tyres than Ricciardo, and it showed, reducing the time between him and the Australian by more than one second per lap in certain instances. "Then I had Verstappen lap me and then pull right in front, so I had no aero". They did, however, reinforce the message that "even though the race has ended, caution still needs to be exercised by all drivers".

"Valtteri seems to struggle more having the vehicle in that sweet spot than Lewis", Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. That could also be applied to the situation the team faces overall.

"The debrief was very positive". If we had started ahead, I think we would have won. And the team are really pumped up to see what they can do to rectify the problems on this auto.

"A lot of analysis will happen in the next few days in terms of what we do for the next race", he said. In terms of recruitment - and not necessarily Marcin - we need to grow, and there is no secret that those people need to come from somewhere, that we have to go chasing from some of the other teams.

The engine will be the upgraded version that Ferrari has been working on for some time.

Despite Hamilton's current advantage, the title battle certainly isn't over yet. Alonso again finished ahead of the Mercedes in a session where the Silver Arrows struggled with their vehicle set up. This was a coming-out performance for Verstappen, and a coming-back one for Red Bull.

But with Mercedes experiencing a mini-slump in performance, Ferrari remain optimistic they can still make up ground over the final two months of the season as they strive to end their decade-long Drivers' Championship drought.