Hamilton says second half key to 2017 F1 title as Vettel rues Singapore crash
It was a strong start for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in the first half of the 2017 Formula 1 season, with the German keeping his nose ahead of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the title battle. The Italian manufacturer looked to have the upperhand, while Mercedes had troubles with balance, which put off both the drivers, even though they had decent results in.
At all the tracks, Ferrari were constant in giving stiff competition to Mercedes, which was key to keep Vettel in the title hunt until the summer break. Once the action resumed in Belgium, Hamilton started off with a hat-trick of wins, while Vettel struggled to match up and also lost out with a silly crash in Singapore.
Hamilton scored 180 points in the second half, which included five wins and two podiums, to Vettel's 105 points, which had just the one win and four podiums. In comparison, the first half had Vettel scoring 212 points with four wins and four podiums apiece, to Hamilton's 183 points with four wins and two podiums.
"I’d say probably the first half of the season was maybe a little bit up and down in terms of extracting maximum performance out of the car," said Hamilton. "I think the Ferraris seemed to be a lot more consistent in that respect.
"I think in the second half the studying and the understanding of the balance, being really able to hit the nail on the head most weekends and get the car where I was able to exploit the car’s potential and my potential on a consistent basis was really a part of it.
"And of course, with that pressure applied, a bit like today’s race where you know, often in a difficult race like today, you’re applying the pressure, hoping that you can squeeze a little bit of a mistake from the driver ahead.
"It’s the same, I would say with the team: when teams are pushing right to the limit, you’re pushing, you’re squeezing every drop from the car, yet you’ve got to make it go quite a long distance in terms of life and reliability. I think that’s really where the stamina, I would say, of Ferrari was not the same as Mercedes.
"Nonetheless I think they had a great car and an incredible season and looking forward to the tough battles that we’re going to have next year. It’s going to be interesting to see what people turn up with on the first race – or the first test. But yeah, the second half of the season was really the turning point for me.
From Vettel's point of view, in a season where Mercedes had no retirements, his Singapore crash became one of the key differences in deciding the title. The Mercedes had a troubled time in the Marina Bay circuit, but due to Vettel's mishap, the team gained big time.
But even then, Vettel feels the crash was one part, while in overall picture, he thinks Mercedes had a better consistency, which eventually won them the title. "For sure it [Singapore crash] makes a difference," he said.
"If you finish a race rather than finishing it in the first lap but overall I think we had a good year. You have to be also fair, in the end Mercedes was better, they were faster – look at the amount of pole positions, of race wins.
"I think we had our chances, we used them, we had races were we probably got away with a good result even though it was on the edge. I’m thinking about races like Bahrain where we were very close to have a failure.
"We won the race in Hungary which I don’t think we were supposed to win with the steering failure we had during the race. We finished races that might as well have been, could have been a DNF. On the other hand we had other races where we didn’t finish.
"It’s obviously bitter because you’re not in the fight. That’s the frustrating bit about those races but they’re part of racing. So, that’s how it does sometimes. In that regard obviously Mercedes has been more consistent.
"The issues that they had, thinking about gearbox at the beginning of the year were less costly and happened to them on a Saturday or early in the weekend – but that’s how it goes. Overall I think it’s a straight fight and they just did better but again I want to emphasise the positives for us.
"Really the steps we were able to make. The way the team has grown together. I don’t think you always see the full picture. Maybe we are less vocal about it than other people as well – but in the end we do our job, and that’s what bought us here in the first place. If we keep doing that I’m confident that we can be in a better place next year."
In the constructors' battle, Mercedes, despite with obvious disadvantage of Valtteri Bottas coming in late, proved to be a stronger force with just the one retirement for the Finn, whereas Kimi Raikkonen on the other hand, had a couple of DNFs' and one DNS to his name.
Thus, Bottas was able to get an upperhand with 305 points to his name to Raikkonen's 205, as he just managed to beat Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo by five points in the end. In all, Mercedes scored a massive 668 points to Ferrari's 522.