Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Maurizio Arrivabene blames bad spark plug. They changed the plug on the grid and the car was still down a cylinder
    Maurizio Arrivabene blames bad spark plug. They changed the plug on the grid and the car was still down a cylinder

    Japanese supplier blamed for Vettel failure

  • Bottas emerging from performance slump – Wolff
  • Austin seat still not confirmed for Gasly
  • Raikkonen says Ferrari must get quality issues under control
  • Hamilton 'could only have dreamed' of lead
  • Wolff praises 'perfect' Hamilton performance
  • 'It would be better if Massa retires' – Marko
  • Palmer: No hard feelings over Renault exit

Japanese supplier blamed for Vettel failure
(GMM) Fingers of blame are pointing at a team supplier, after Ferrari's 2017 title campaign turned into a Japanese nightmare.

NGK, the supplier of spark plugs to the Italian team, is located just an hour from Suzuka.

And on Sunday, it was a simple failed spark plug that led to Sebastian Vettel's retirement — and almost certainly left the world championship in the hands of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.

"The world cup dream for Ferrari has been postponed until 2018," Corriere della Sera declared.

Some are speculating that Ferrari's nightmare Asian tour could cost team boss Maurizio Arrivabene his job.

But the Italian knows where to look for Sunday's failure.

"Everybody saw what happened," said Arrivabene. "Do you see any mistake by the team?"

Vettel foiled by Ferrari again
Vettel foiled by Ferrari again

He told Italian television Sky: "The car is good beyond the components that cost us.

"But we have to turn the page, keep motivated, do the analysis of what happened, and go to Austin, even if the points (deficit) to Mercedes is a lot."

German Vettel defended his team, saying reliability problems can be the price of pushing hard. If he doesn't finish at least fifth in Austin and Hamilton wins again, the championship chase will be over definitively.

"I don't think you have to be a math genius," said Vettel when asked if the title is slipping away. "But we still have a chance. It's just not in our hands as we would like it to be."

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was seen consoling Arrivabene on the Ferrari pitwall after Sunday's race.

"I get on very well with Maurizio and they must all feel awful," he said.

"Maybe it is the development slope of the team. They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017. Their car is super-fast, it just lacks reliability and that is the next step."

However, Wolff insisted it's not over until it's over, and his fellow Mercedes boss Niki Lauda agrees.

"I feel sorry for Sebastian," said Lauda. "Thank God it's them and not us, but Ferrari need to look where these small mistakes come from and correct them.

"Sebastian has a big deficit, but I always say that as long as the title is not won or lost, it is not won or lost."

Bottas emerging from performance slump – Wolff

Now that Hamilton is guarantee the title Mercedes has turned the power back up on Bottas' engine
Now that Hamilton is guaranteed the title Mercedes has turned the power back up on Bottas' engine

(GMM) Toto Wolff says Valtteri Bottas is starting to rebuild his confidence after a performance slump late in 2017.

A solid first season at Mercedes for the Finn earned him a new deal for 2018, but since the contract was signed, Bottas has notably struggled.

There have even been rumors the 28-year-old's slump could cost him his seat.

But Mercedes boss Wolff said at Suzuka that he was satisfied with Bottas' performance on Sunday.

"It is good that he starts to get his confidence back," he told Ilta Sanomat newspaper.

"Valtteri drove a really good race.

"It has been difficult for him lately, but he is moving in a better direction now," Wolff added. "And when he has recovered, he will be stronger than ever."

Austin seat still not confirmed for Gasly

Gasly's check for Austin must not have cleared yet
Gasly's check for Austin must not have cleared yet

(GMM) It still is not clear whether Pierre Gasly will race for Toro Rosso next time out at Austin.

Earlier, it seemed possible the French rookie would return to Japan instead of contesting the US grand prix, as he is in contention for the Japanese Super Formula title.

But Toro Rosso seemed to end that uncertainty at Suzuka by declaring in a statement: "In Austin, Daniil Kvyat will drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso alongside Pierre Gasly."

However, rumors swirled in the Suzuka paddock late on Sunday that Gasly might still be released to fight for his Japanese title, before returning to the Toro Rosso cockpit for Mexico and beyond.

Gasly confirmed that a decision about what he will be doing on October 22 is still not made.

"So far I have not received any confirmation from either Helmut (Marko) or Franz (Tost) about how events will develop in the next two weeks," he said.

Asked if he had seen Toro Rosso's press release that confirms his participation in Austin, Gasly answered: "Yes. But first I will meet with Helmut before saying anything."

The 21-year-old has said he doesn't have a personal preference about whether he races in Japan or the US.

"I'm interested in both options," said Gasly.

"If I fight for the Super Formula title and then return in Mexico and do the rest of the races for Toro Rosso, it would be great. A title is a title.

"But having a chance to go to Austin and then do the rest of the season in Toro Rosso, I would not complain either. Next week everything will be confirmed," he added.

According to rumors, if Gasly does contest the Super Formula finale, there are multiple contenders to replace him at Toro Rosso, including Sebastien Buemi and new Indycar champion Josef Newgarden.

Raikkonen says Ferrari must get quality issues under control

Ferrari engineers must get QC under control
Ferrari engineers must get QC under control

Kimi Raikkonen says that Ferrari must understand why it is encountering reliability problems during crucial stages of a race weekend, after Sebastian Vettel's Japanese Grand Prix failure.

Vettel suffered a spark plug failure prior to the race at Suzuka and, while he took the start from second spot, he lost ground early on, slipping to sixth place, due to his lack of straight line speed.

Vettel ultimately pulled into the pits, where Ferrari deemed the problem to be terminal and retired his car.

The issue came a week after Räikkönen was unable to start in Malaysia due to a turbo problem, and the Finn says Ferrari must get on top of its current malaise.

"We have made a lot of improvements over the last few years as a team," said Raikkonen.

"But now, for whatever reason, we suddenly seem to have technical issues coming out from nothing.

"It's kind of weird, our cars are running perfectly and suddenly on Sunday there is a problem that nobody expects.

"There is some work to be done on that side."

With Vettel out, Raikkonen carried Ferrari's hopes, and he classified in fifth place, having made gradual progress on the alternative Soft/Super Soft strategy, despite a messy first lap.

"I did a decent start on the Soft tires and in the first lap I tried to gain some positions, but when I attempted to pass a Renault I ran wide and lost some places," he said.

"The feeling in the car was a little bit tricky all the way through the race, not the nicest balance; some laps were okay, some others a bit more difficult.

"It's quite tricky to follow other cars on this track; we did a fairly good job out of overtaking people but we were too far from those at the front."

Raikkonen retains fifth position in the championship.

Hamilton 'could only have dreamed' of lead

Hamilton has huge lead after recent chokes by Ferrari
Hamilton has huge lead after recent chokes by Ferrari

Lewis Hamilton says he "could only have dreamed" of building such a significant title lead after moving 59 points clear of Sebastian Vettel at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Ferrari endured further trouble ahead of Sunday's race, with a spark plug issue developing in Vettel's car, which left him down on power and led to an early retirement.

Hamilton, meanwhile, held his pole position advantage off the line, and survived a late charge from Red Bull's Max Verstappen to take the maximum 25 points on offer.

As a result, Hamilton will get a chance to clinch the title at the next round of the season in the United States.

If Hamilton wins in Austin and Vettel is no higher than fifth, or if Hamilton finishes second and Vettel is no higher than ninth, a fourth title will be his.

"Honestly, I could only have dreamed of having that kind of gap," commented Hamilton during the podium interviews at Suzuka.

"Ferrari has put on such a great challenge all year long.

"I have to put it down to my team, they have done a phenomenal job, the reliability has really been on point, they're so meticulous, and really that's why we're having the results we're having.

"A big thank you to the guys. I owe it to everyone that's here and back at the factory."

Hamilton also heaped praised on Verstappen and Red Bull, as the combination – after victory in Malaysia – again gave Mercedes a serious test.

"Max drove an outstanding race – it wasn't an easy one for us at all," he said of his win.

"Today the Red Bulls just seemed to be rapid in the race trim. We're quick in the quali trim.

"I was able to just hold him behind, but it definitely got very close a couple of times, particularly at the end, with the VSC and when we restarted.

"My tires were cold, I had a bit of traffic, so it was very, very close."

Wolff praises 'perfect' Hamilton performance

Hamilton and Mercedes have been perfect as Ferrari chokes
Hamilton and Mercedes have been perfect as Ferrari chokes

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff labelled Lewis Hamilton's display at the Japanese Grand Prix as "perfect", after the Briton moved 59 points clear in the standings, with just four rounds remaining in 2017.

Hamilton led away from pole position at Suzuka and kept Max Verstappen at bay during the closing stages to record his eighth win of the campaign.

Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, recovered from sixth to fourth, as Mercedes increased its advantage in the Constructors' Championship over Ferrari to 145 points.

Both Hamilton and Mercedes could clinch their respective titles at the next event in the United States.

"This was another perfect performance from Lewis," said Wolff.

"He controlled the race from start to finish, taking nothing more out of the tires and engine than he needed to at any point.

"It got close with Max at a few points, especially in the closing laps when they came up on traffic and were struggling for tire temperature, but he kept cool and brought it home to the flag.

"As for Valtteri, he recovered well from the gearbox penalty to claim P4 and come within a few tenths of a second of the podium.

"He had strong pace and never gave up pushing to the end, it was a real battling drive."

Despite Hamilton and Mercedes' advantage in their respective championships, aided by more woe for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, Wolff insists that the outfit will not change its approach.

"One look at the points standings might give us some brief comfort, but there are still four races to go, 100 points to win in the Drivers' title," warned Wolff.

"If the past weeks have shown us anything at all, it's that anything can happen in motorsport.

"We take no prisoners in how we claim our points – but we are all conscious that we have benefited from our rivals' misfortune and reliability woes in recent weeks.

"So nothing changes in our approach: we must take the next races one at a time, push to better understand the car and keep our humble attitude.

"That is the approach that has worked for us so far and the way we will continue until the final race in Abu Dhabi."

'It would be better if Massa retires' – Marko

Marko thinks Massa is a moving chicane
Marko thinks Massa is a moving chicane

Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko has suggested that it would be "better" if Felipe Massa retires, after his actions on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Race leader Lewis Hamilton came under pressure from Red Bull's Max Verstappen during the closing stages, as the pair came up to lap Massa and Fernando Alonso, who were battling over 10th.

Alonso was handed a reprimanded after it was deemed that he had ignored blue flags for almost a lap – in turn aiding Verstappen to draw closer to Hamilton.

Verstappen, though, was compromised on the final lap, for while Hamilton was able to lap Massa along the pit straight, Verstappen could not get through until the Dunlop curve.

Hamilton ultimately came home ahead to triumph, with Verstappen second, a situation which led to an irascible response from Marko.

"Max had the pace to try to attack Hamilton," Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

"When first place in a Grand Prix is at stake, it can't be the case that you move [over] after that many corners. It would be better if he [Massa] retires.

"Otherwise it [the finish] could have been exciting."

Verstappen, though, did not feel the incident impacted on his chances of winning the race.

"I think I wouldn't have passed Lewis anyway because it's really hard once he's in free air," he said.

"It was more like when Lewis was getting held up [by Alonso], I could close up and then maybe you can do something, but once he got past, even when I got held up, it's done."

Palmer: No hard feelings over Renault exit

Jolyon Palmer - off to IndyCar now?
Jolyon Palmer – off to IndyCar now?

Jolyon Palmer insists that he is happy to "move on" with his motorsport career after completing his final race for Renault at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Following the qualifying session at Suzuka, Palmer took to social media to announce that Sunday's Grand Prix would be his final outing for the team.

It was confirmed soon afterwards that Carlos Sainz Jr. would complete an early switch to Renault for the final four races of 2017, ahead of his already-confirmed 2018 move to the French marque.

Despite his adamance that he would finish the season with Renault, Palmer told Sky Sports that he respected the outcome and wished the team and Sainz Jr. well for the future.

"It's been pretty clear… Carlos has signed for next year and [Renault chief] Cyril [Abiteboul] made it clear that he wanted to put him in the car this year as well," said Palmer.

"After this race there's a couple of weeks gap, and it made sense for this time to be the time that we part ways.

"It's a shame to not finish the season, having been with the team for a while, but I respect the decision.

"I wish the team the best for the future, Carlos the best. We'll go our separate ways and I'll work on something else for my future."

Palmer added that the season-long speculation regarding his future had been "tough".

"I wouldn't say there's any relief [leaving the team]," he said.

"I would've loved to see out the season, to finish what I started.

"The stress level has been pretty huge this year, it's been a very tough season for many reasons.

"Each weekend, turning up with some question marks, with the pressure coming on more on more as the season hadn't unfolded like what we'd hoped.

"I'll move on, there's plenty to life out there, and I'm about to find out what it is."

Discussing his final race for the team, Palmer says he was pleased to see the checkered flag, despite being unable to catch Williams' Felipe Massa for the final points-paying position.

"I knew I was going to have an engine penalty here, and from 18th on the grid I think finishing 12th is about as good as we could have done," he commented.

"Apart from if we didn't have the VSC at the end, or we had one more lap, I was four seconds a lap quicker than Massa and right on his arse at the end.

"We maybe could have had a point, but nonetheless I'm happy to have seen the flag."

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