Formula One: Hamilton sure of his direction

Lewis Hamilton signalling to pit crew during practice at Sepang last week. Both Mercedes cars were behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris during much of the three days in Malaysia and the front runner is clearly concerned despite his 34-point lead over Se
Lewis Hamilton signalling to pit crew during practice at Sepang last week. Both Mercedes cars were behind the Red Bulls and Ferraris during much of the three days in Malaysia and the front runner is clearly concerned despite his 34-point lead over Sebastian Vettel.PHOTO: REUTERS

Briton has told team the set-up needed for Suzuka and is upbeat on fixing tyre issue

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton has made it clear to his Mercedes team what he wants from his car for the next round of the Formula One World Championship in Japan, having struggled for pace at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Mercedes had expected to be strong in Sepang but they had difficulty with their car all weekend, leaving Hamilton expressing frustration at the "fundamental issues" that have caused its performances to vary according to conditions and from track to track.

He finished second to the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, extending his lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to 34 points in the championship fight. But Hamilton and his team acknowledged that in terms of race pace, they had been behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

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. The Briton opted to revert to the previous package for qualifying, where he took pole, and for the race.

With five races left, he felt that he knew the direction the team should pursue in order to best serve his attempt to win a fourth world title.

"I have suggested what I want to do at the start of the next race and what I need, because I am in a battle for the World Championship," he said.

"So I have told them what I feel is the best way to start the next race. I am happy that the team are now pumped up to pull together and will try and see what we can rectify with the package we have."

A LIKELY BOOST

The corners are a little bit different to what we experienced in Malaysia and we will run a different aero package as well, so we should be (able to perform) better there.

LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, on tackling the Suzuka circuit at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix

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.

"Suzuka is a much cooler circuit generally," he said.

"The corners are a little bit different to what we experienced in Malaysia and we will run a different aero package as well, so we should be better there."

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.

His car took major damage in the incident and should his gearbox require replacement, he will incur a five-place penalty in Japan.

Ferrari have sent the gearbox back to Maranello to assess whether it can be used. They have also vowed to improve the quality of components after both of their cars suffered engine failures in Malaysia.

Vettel lined up last after problems in qualifying, while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was set to be on the front row of the grid but was ruled out before the start.

The problems came after both Ferrari drivers had collided and retired at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix two weeks earlier.

"We are addressing the entire chain to impose different standards," chairman Sergio Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Rovereto, northern Italy, on Monday.

"It's one thing breaking an engine on the (test) bench at home but it really looks bad when you have to be pushed off the grid (before the formation lap) from second place, it's enough to make you pull your hair out."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton sure of his direction'. Print Edition | Subscribe