Title Pressure: Hamilton Wary of Hidden Potential of Ferrari Upgrades

Ferrari brought some very significant updates to their car for the Malaysian Grand Prix last time out, but Raikkonen’s non-start and Sebastian Vettel’s stalled progress from the back of the grid prevented us and their rivals on the grid from seeing the absolute potential of these updates.

Lewis Hamilton, who has a vested interest in how the Ferrari performs this weekend given his 2017 title prospects, is wary that the updates that Ferrari implemented last time could come to full fruition this weekend, in a race that could very much define the championship. The Brit has a 34-point lead going into the Japanese Grand Prix, but has been in the business long enough to know that nothing can be taken for granted.

He said,

“Ferrari brought quite a big upgrade to the last race so it will be interesting to see that properly unleashed.

I think with Sebastian having a penalty [of starting from the back of the grid] in the last race, we saw him come through but we didn’t get to see him really run at the front, so that’s exciting and I just hope that we have enough strength to be able to fight that. And also the Red Bulls are coming up.

We’ve got improvements coming this weekend so hopefully that gives us a stronger platform just to battle. The whole exciting thing is to have the opportunity to fight, to remain in the fight.”

– Lewis Hamilton

Vettel topped FP1 and was two-tenths quicker than Hamilton over a lap. It bodes well for Ferrari on Sunday given that we’re expecting a dry race, but Qualifying could shake up the order given that it’s anticipated to be quite wet, and it may give the likes of Red Bull and even McLaren with their proven chassis, the chance to secure a grid slot that disrupts the potential for a clear-cut scrap between Hamilton and Vettel.

It’s also worth noting that Valtteri Bottas is looking likely for a 5-place grid penalty for an unsolicited gearbox change, meaning that Hamilton might not be able to rely on his teammate for wingman duties this weekend. So if Ferrari’s updates are successful in Suzuka, the Silver Arrow may have to fight them alone.