Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fear Ferrari ambush in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton leads the world title standings but is all too aware that Ferrari and arch rival Sebastian Vettel are catching him up. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton fear Ferrari ambush in Singapore

  • It is expected that Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix will favour Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari.
  • Hamilton currently holds a 30-point lead over the German in the world title standings.

LONDON: Lewis Hamilton may have tightened his grip on a fifth world title after extending his championship lead with a surprise victory in Monza two weeks ago, yet Mercedes are playing down the Briton’s chances of adding to that triumph in Singapore.
In the last three of his four Formula One title wins, Hamilton has returned from the annual summer break in brilliant form, reeling off a succession of victories in his dominant Mercedes to close the door on his title rivals.
However, while the Briton has finished second in Belgium and first in Italy since the season resumed in August, his car is seen as inferior to Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari and Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix should once again favor the German.
Second-placed Vettel slipped 30 points behind Hamilton after coming off the worst in a first-lap collision with the Briton in Monza and the 31-year-old knows he has little room for further mishaps with only seven rounds remaining.
The pair arrived in Singapore in a similar position a year ago, but the pole-sitting Vettel crashed into Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and team mate Kimi Raikkonen soon after the start as Hamilton cruised to victory and never looked back.
Vettel and Hamilton are the most successful drivers on the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit with seven wins between them but Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says the odds are stacked against the Briton matching the German’s four Singapore victories.
“Singapore has features that we’ve struggled with in the past. The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make (it) one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us,” the Austrian said in a team statement.
“Last year, we started the race from the third row — and came home with a win and a third place. On paper, the track should favor the Ferraris, but the championship fight is so close that predictions are almost meaningless.
“We’re in the middle of a monumental championship fight... every man and woman in the team is willing to push themselves to the limit; we will be fighting with everything we’ve got for these two championships.”
Vettel, who will be joined by Sauber’s Charles Leclerc next season with Raikkonen heading the other way, has been criticized for losing points through over-aggressive driving but Wolff came out in defense of the German after his Monza spin.
“I’m not completely neutral, but for me Lewis is the best driver of recent years. Even so, I find the criticism of Sebastian not quite fair,” Wolff told Die Welt newspaper of Vettel, also a quadruple world champion.
“If possible to win, he has the ambition to do it with the necessary aggression. That requires a lot of courage and his way of driving sometimes leads to collisions.
“It could easily have been Lewis instead of Sebastian who spun (at Monza). Then the whole grand prix would have been different.”


Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

Updated 23 April 2019
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Le Fondre pounces to earn Sydney vital point

  • The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H

SHANGHAI: “Fantastic” journeyman forward Adam le Fondre pounced to earn Sydney FC a point in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Shanghai SIPG in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.

The stalemate leaves all to play for in Group H with two rounds of matches to play after table-toppers Ulsan were held 2-2 at Kawasaki Frontale.

Chinese champions SIPG, for whom Brazilian forward Hulk was a constant menace, came back from a goal down to lead 2-1.

But the 32-year-old le Fondre displayed his enduring predatory instincts to grab a classy leveller on 62 minutes.

The striker, who is at his ninth club and has had spells at Cardiff City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, popped up with a bullet header on the six-yard box.

“He’s a fantastic person, first and foremost, and a fantastic player,” said Sydney coach Steve Corica, who knows his team will almost certainly need to win their last two matches to progress to the knock-out rounds.

Corica, formerly a player at Leicester City and Wolves, was full of praise for the evergreen le Fondre, who moved to Australia from Bolton in August 2018.

“He’s played in England, played in the Premier League, scored goals wherever he’s gone,” said Corica.

“He works extremely hard for our team and in the A-League has scored 16 goals (this season), and he’s scored in the Champions League.

“He’s been fantastic for our club and the way he’s played this year.”

Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale gave themselves a qualification lifeline as they fought back from a goal down at home with nine minutes remaining to draw 2-2 with South Korea’s Ulsan.

Leandro Damiao fired home an 81st-minute equalizer to revive Frontale’s fading hopes of progress to the last 16.

Star striker Yu Kobayashi opened the scoring for the home side, but the Koreans struck back twice before half-time through Park Yang-woo and Junior Negrao.

Kawasaki piled on the pressure toward the end with Kobayashi guilty of the miss of the match in the second minute of stoppage time when he found himself unmarked with the goal gaping, but somehow hit the post.

Ulsan top a tight Group H on eight points, with SIPG on five, Kawasaki on four and Sydney still just about alive on three points.

Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande were held to a surprise 1-1 draw by an under-strength Melbourne Victory.

The former two-time Asian champions dropped to second in Group F after Huang Bowen’s 24th-minute strike was canceled out by Jai Ingham’s goal two minutes later. Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima took advantage of the Chinese giants’ slip-up to go top on nine points with a 1-0 win at Daegu FC in South Korea, courtesy of Hayato Araki’s 34th-minute winner. With Daegu just a point behind Guangzhou, Cannavaro’s men now face a pivotal clash in Hiroshima in two weeks before the group finale against the Koreans on May 22.