Hamilton and Vettel already focused on next year’s Formula One title battle
Hamilton and Vettel already focused on next year’s Formula One title battle
With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure was off in yesterday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which was won by Valtteri Bottas.
Both Vettel and Hamilton are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.
“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”
Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950 to 58.
“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”
Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.
He has won 62 races — second only to Schumacher’s 91 — and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles — losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 — and was at the peak of his powers this season.
After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.
Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.
“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect. Even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.
“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”
Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared with none last year.
Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.
“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010 to 13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”
He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.
Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September — turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.
In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.
Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of his car. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving. That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.
Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers — sitting next to each other — laughed easily when Baku was suggested.
Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.
“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play ... maybe not.”
Juventus too good for Man Utd on Ronaldo’s return
- Paulo Dybala scored the winner on 17 minutes as the Italian champions opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of Group H
- The hosts failed to threaten until Paul Pogba’s curling shot from outside the box hit the post 15 minutes from time
MANCHESTER: Cristiano Ronaldo emerged victorious again on his second return to Old Trafford, but this time did not get on the scoresheet as Juventus outclassed Manchester United to win 1-0 in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Instead Ronaldo played a supporting role by helping set up Paulo Dybala’s winner on 17 minutes as the Italian champions opened up a five-point lead over United at the top of Group H.
Jose Mourinho’s men were handed a break before kick-off as Valencia’s 1-1 draw away to Young Boys means United still hold a two-point lead over the Spaniards, but a fourth defeat of the season will see speculation over Mourinho’s future increase once more.
But for a series of excellent saves from David de Gea, the margin of defeat could have been far greater too as any momentum United gained from fightbacks against Newcastle and Chelsea in recent weeks in the Premier League faded away against one of the favorites to win the Champions League.
Ronaldo was given a hero’s welcome on his previous visit to Old Trafford with Real Madrid in 2013 after scoring 118 goals for United in six seasons between 2003 and 2009 to help the Red Devils win three Premier League titles and the first of his five Champions Leagues.
The Portuguese’s early days as Juventus player since making the move to Italy from Madrid this summer have been overshadowed by a rape allegation made against him in the United States.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has strongly denied the allegation and been backed by his new club, who paid 112 million euros ($129 million) for the 33-year-old in July.
But the reception he received from the United faithful this time was far more muted with only a mild cheer raised when his name in the Juventus line-up was announced.
Ronaldo scored the winner in a contentious Champions League last-16 tie for Madrid five years ago, but this time played the role of provider for Dybala to be the match-winner.
His cross intended for Juan Cuadrado ricocheted kindly off Chris Smalling into the path of Dybala to sweep the ball past De Gea for his fourth goal in two Champions League games.
As Juventus dominated the rest of the first half, only De Gea stood in their way of killing the game off before the break.
The Spaniard flew to his right to save Joao Cancelo’s fiercely-struck shot then produced a fine double save to parry Ronaldo’s free-kick and swat away Blaise Matuidi’s follow-up effort.
Top scorer in this competition for the past six seasons, Ronaldo is still searching for his first Champions League goal for Juventus having been sent off after just 30 minutes of his European debut against Valencia and subsequently banned for a 3-0 victory over Young Boys.
He couldn’t have done much more with an effort that soared toward De Gea’s top corner seven minutes into the second half only to see the United ‘keeper produce a miraculous right-handed save.
Going behind brought out the best in Mourinho’s side against Newcastle and Chelsea to help ease the pressure on the manager.
But the hosts failed to threaten until Paul Pogba’s curling shot from outside the box hit the post 15 minutes from time.
Anthony Martial also tested Wojciech Szczesny late on but Juventus held out for a deserved victory.