Vettel, Hamilton Contest Final Malaysian Grand Prix
The Malaysian Grand Prix this Sunday will be the last, as the south-east Asian nation has declined to renew it, citing a decrease in revenue from the event. It’s a race that will be missed by both Formula 1 fans and drivers alike: in the build-up this week, Lewis Hamilton praised it as the toughest race on the circuit, and a true test of drivers.
Many other F1 drivers agree: the combination of multiple tight turns on the Sepang International Circuit and Malaysia’s heat, which can see drivers shed three kilograms in sweat alone, makes the 63-lap race a test of skill and endurance that sorts out the legends from the boy racers. Hamilton will be keen to take pole position in the qualifiers. He was in the lead last year when his engine caught fire, denying him a second win to go with his 2014 triumph at Sepang.
But the Mercedes-Benz driver’s current arch-rival, Sebastian Vettel, has even more motivation in Malaysia. After a strong 2017 start, Scuderia Ferrari’s season began going pear-shaped at the Belgian Grand Prix in August. Hamilton won that one, and the Italian Grand Prix that followed, after rain-bedevilled qualifiers left Vettel starting back in eighth on the grid.
Disaster in Singapore Leaves Ferrari in Trouble
For the Singapore Grand Prix on 17 September, Vettel took pole position in the qualifiers, but a terrible first-lap pile-up saw him, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso knocked out of the race. Hamilton took his seventh victory of the year, and his third consecutively.
Which means that Hamilton now tops the Drivers’ Championship ladder with 263 points, followed by Vettel on 235. On the Constructors’ Championship ladder, Ferrari are in even more trouble on 373 points, more than 100 adrift of the Silver Arrows on 475. So in the final six races of the year, Vettel needs several wins to haul in Hamilton, and Raikkonen has to start coming to the podium party too, if Ferrari is to have any chance of hauling in Mercedes.
What may be boosting the German driver’s confidence is the knowledge that he has four wins in Sepang, compared to the odds-on British ace’s one. In fact, if Vettel wins on Sunday, he will overtake the record he currently shares with 70s’ Hong Kong driver John McDonald, to set a final, unbreakable record of five Malaysian Grand Prix victories.
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