Lewis Hamilton: 'Great' Vettel will bounce back

Hamilton on exposing rivals' weaknesses and this weekend's Malaysia GP

3y ago

Lewis Hamilton says exposing a rival's "weak spots" is a key part of his title-challenging armoury as he aims to make Sebastian Vettel's Singapore crash the final turning point in their title battle.

Vettel lost his 100 per cent finishing record in 2017 in the three-car, start-line accident while Hamilton collected a surprise victory, putting the Englishman 28 points clear of the Ferrari driver in the standings

In a chat show interview in the days after the race, Hamilton said it was "great to have seen some of the weaknesses come through this year" from his four-time champion rival.

Asked about his comments on the opening day of the Malaysia GP weekend, Hamilton did not elaborate on Vettel specifically, but said: "We all have weak spots and part of the process of fighting a competitor is always to try and find the exposed areas.

"If you are playing tennis and you know the server's not so good with the backhand you then always send it that way. So it's about trying to identify that and then try to target that.

"For me, I'm just trying to do my job. I'm trying to be the most complete driver that I can be in all areas and hopefully not showing weaknesses. Hopefully that little difference makes the difference as opposed to potentially another driver that may not be fully complete."

Although Vettel has not admitted fault for the accident which also wiped out Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, and the stewards deemed it a racing incident, the Ferrari driver has nonetheless again found himself in the spotlight for the wrong reasons three months after he was widely condemned for driving into Hamilton in Baku.

Hamilton is unsure how Vettel will have responded to the latest setback, but is anticipating a strong on-track performance from his Ferrari rival at Sepang.

"He's a four-time world champion so it's difficult to really know how he's going to react," said the Mercedes driver.

"Firstly, I don't know how he has taken it, the mistake in the last race, and I don't know how he's reflected up it. But greats generally bounce that so I have to anticipate this weekend he'll bounce back being strong.

"I don't remember the last time seeing him falter being particularly under pressure, so I don't really know how he's going to react. If he feels pressure, time will tell."

Hamilton returns to scene of last DNF

While Vettel's 18-race points-finishing streak ended in Singapore, Hamilton stretched his own personal run to 19 races with the Englishman now able to complete a full year's worth of race finishes at Sepang on Sunday.

Malaysia was the scene of his last retirement when his Mercedes engine blew up while he was leading the race - a moment which proved decisive in Nico Rosberg being crowned world champion.

But reflecting on the setback a year on, Hamilton admitted his own errors during 2016 played as pivotal a role.

"Honestly, at the end of the season rather than blame it on things like the reliability issue - for sure if that didn't happened we would have been in a different position - if I hadn't lost the positions I lost at the start of races it would have been the same," he said.

"So I would put it on my personal performance - and I've improved on that. It definitely has been a very solid performance since then and one I'm continuing to work on."

Hamilton has never completed a season without a race retirement in his 10-year F1 career and says Mercedes are taking nothing for granted with six rounds to go.

"When you arrive on weekends knowing reliability has been as good as it is it's a great feeling, but then also there's in the back of your mind anything can happen," he added.

"So you just have to be prepared for that - and we are."

Having spent most of the season playing catch up to Vettel in the standings, Hamilton's 28-point advantage is the largest either driver has enjoyed all season.

And, in a season which has already produced numerous turning points, Hamilton says he is "trying to make sure that was the last one" as he bids to close out a fourth world crown over the season's concluding two months.

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