x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Mercedes confident they can keep Vettel’s title celebrations on ice

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-GP team are confident they can keep Sebastian Vettel from securing his fourth world title at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-GP team are confident they can take the fight to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing this weekend in Japan and delay his championship celebrations.

Vettel has won the past four races, and victory on Sunday at Suzuka could earn him his fourth world title if Fernando Alonso finishes outside the top eight in his Ferrari.

Mercedes have won three times this season, with Hamilton claiming victory in Hungary, but they have struggled to match Red Bull of late.

Hamilton, who finished fifth in Korea last Sunday, said: “From my point of view, the car felt fantastic to drive in Korea when everything was hooked up. I’m excited for this weekend to see what we can do.”

Hamilton has not finished on the podium in the past three races and his best result at Suzuka is third in 2009, but his optimism was shared by Toto Wolff, the team’s motorsport director.

“The team had a frustrating time in Korea, qualifying showed the pace we had in the car but we were not able to use it at the right moments of the race,” Wolff said.

“Our car was possibly the quickest of all in Sector 2 last weekend, which contained all the medium and high-speed corners.

“This is promising for Suzuka, where nearly two-thirds of the corners are taken in fourth gear or higher, and should see our car perform well on this fantastic track.

“It’s a true drivers’ circuit and we have the best driver pairing in the field, so I’m optimistic Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis can qualify and race strongly to bounce back from last weekend.”