Mercedes won't be complacent: Wolff

Mercedes' F1 leader Lewis Hamilton during the classic car parade before the Japanese GP, where rival Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire.
Mercedes' F1 leader Lewis Hamilton during the classic car parade before the Japanese GP, where rival Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AUSTIN (Texas) • Lewis Hamilton will seek a fifth win in six visits to Texas this weekend and hope for further Ferrari misfortune as he bids to clinch his fourth world title at the United States Grand Prix.

He has 306 points to lead rival Sebastian Vettel by 59 points with four races left and will take the crown if he can outscore the German by 16.

If the in-form Mercedes driver wins, Vettel, the only other man to have won at the Circuit of the Americas, must finish in the top five to keep his challenge alive - but only if he and Ferrari can avoid the mishaps that have hurt them in the last four races.

Since their home race at Monza, Italy, Ferrari have succumbed to a series of mechanical setbacks and mistakes that culminated in Vettel being forced to retire owing to the failure of a US$60 (S$81) spark plug in Suzuka, Japan, on Oct 8.

In between, there was a crash with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Singapore and an engine problem in Malaysia, incidents that allowed Hamilton to take advantage with three wins in four races.

The pre-race programme on Sunday may see Hamilton 'take a knee' during the playing of the anthem in support of the protest, initiated by National Football League players, against racial injustice and police brutality.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff made clear that he would not stop him.

"The more you try to limit him - put him in a box - the more detrimental it will be for his performance," he said.

With temperatures forecast to continue at around 30 deg C, the conditions would favour Ferrari's faster, but less reliable car at a track that Hamilton relishes.

But as Ferrari seek to preserve their challenge with improved reliability, the Briton's main threat may come from the Red Bulls - Max Verstappen, who won in Malaysia, or Daniel Ricciardo, who was third in America in 2014 and last year.

Fully aware that both Ferrari and Red Bull have shown superior speed in recent weeks, Wolff has warned his team against complacency.

"The team are operating at an incredibly high level in every area and continuing to develop," he said.

"But we can take nothing for granted. We have seen a strong points swing in our favour in both championships and we have put ourselves in the right position to make the most of the opportunities.

"But nobody is allowing those good results to disguise the challenges we have faced.

"We approach every race with a healthy dose of scepticism."


Practice 1 & 2: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 10.55pm & tomorrow, 2.55am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Mercedes won't be complacent: Wolff'. Print Edition | Subscribe