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.”


Kashima Antlers set up reunion tie with Real Madrid in FIFA Club World Cup

Updated 15 December 2018
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Kashima Antlers set up reunion tie with Real Madrid in FIFA Club World Cup

ABU DHABI: Real Madrid will face Kashima Antlers in Wednesday’s FIFA Club World Cup semifinals after the Asian champions came from behind to beat Mexico’s Guadalajara.
The AFC Champions League winners could not have made a worse start, as the Japanese club fell behind just three minutes into Saturday’s match in Abu Dhabi, with Angel Zaldivar’s header from an Isaac Brizuela cross putting the CONCACAF champions into an early lead.
Guadalajara looked the better side as the half went on, and were unlucky not to extend their lead before half-time, when Orbelin Pineda’s rocket of a shot from distance came crashing off the crossbar.
That proved to be kick-start the J-League side needed to get back into the match, who took full advantage of their good fortune after the interval when Shoma Doi raced into the box to deliver a low ball to midfielder Ryota Nagaki, who grabbed the leveller with a side-footed finish.
Kashima’s second came with twenty minutes remaining, and from the penalty spot after Nagaki drew a clumsy foul in the box from Guadalajar’s Michael Perez.
Serginho tucked away the resulting penalty and Kashima must have thought the game was done and dusted as they doubled their advantage with an exceptional curling shot from Hiroki Abe six minutes from time.
But there was late drama to come when VAR had to be used to award the Mexican side a late spot-kick.
Kwoun Sun-Tae made a fine save to deny Alan Pulido, but was unlucky to see the ball turned into his own net by Hugo Leonardo.
Kashima’s meeting with Real Madrid later this week will be a re-run of the 2016 final, which the Spanish giants won 4-2 after extra-time.
Real will traveled to the UAE after their La Liga match against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.