Sebastian Vettel set to escape Japanese GP gearbox penalty

Sebastian Vettel set to escape Japanese GP gearbox penalty

Mercedes is giving a false impression of dominance in this season's Formula One championship.

But Toto Wolff had little time for sympathy for his counterpart, cutting a dejected figure after the checkered flag on Sunday.

The latest blip is likely to increase Mercedes' chances of winning a fourth straight constructors' championship, with only five races left after this one.

"It's tremendous for us to sign off the last grand prix in Malaysia with a double podium and a victory, the fifth that we've achieved here".

The bare result glosses over the fact that Vettel, starting from last place on the grid after an engine problem ended his qualifying, nearly got a podium position. "That's not a big problem if this kind of issue appears in our factory, but it's really ugly when you're in second place on the grid and you can't start the race".

But while Ricciardo on the other side of the Red Bull garage has picked up eight top-three finishes this season - including third in the Malaysian Grand Prix - Verstappen has tasted champagne just twice.

"It's just so painful".

Had Vettel finished as he did in fourth but Hamilton triumphed, the triple champion wouldn't have needed to win another race this year to clinch the title.

'(It was) completely unnecessary but I think he just didn't look. "Anything can happen - you saw that in Singapore two weeks ago how everything can change". Raikkonen was perfectly placed to help him, sitting ahead of both Mercedes cars on the grid.

Valtteri Bottas
GETTYValtteri Bottas has struggled to control his Mercedes in recent weeks

"So I have told them what I feel is the best way to start the next race".

Vettel isn't anxious by the situation, but is backing the team to get on top of the problems that they have picked up in recent weeks.

Where has Mercedes' pace gone? The 5.5km circuit however, possesses more high-speed corners - which with the new cars, should be taken up to 20kmph faster than 2016. We discussed it and they were very professional about it. "We are looking at our own level of performance". What is concerning for Mercedes and Hamilton fans though, is the fact that this seems to be a recurrence of the issues that have plagued Mercedes throughout the year, and have proved hard to fix when they occur.

Marchionne said the current team were still comparatively young and finding their way, after a restructuring last year, even if Ferrari had been around for 70 years. "I think we should have been quicker than we were (in Malaysia) but Suzuka should be much more in the window".

But while Hamilton racked up yet another pole position, albeit by half of a tenth, Sebastian Vettel ran into reliability issues, which relegated him to 20th on the grid.

Among the fans who turned up at the race was conservationist Harjinder Kler, 41, who had bought tickets to the Grand Prix as a graduation gift for her nephew Nathan Wood, 21. "Max was pulling away from me that that rate after he passed me". "There was nothing I could do".

Hamilton has struggled with the vehicle before, most notably at Russian Federation and Monaco but the team felt they had solved the issues and the British driver had won four of the previous five grands prix. Hamilton continued, "I'm hoping it's not like this at the next few races". Even more interestingly, Mercedes showed its hand on how Valtteri Bottas will be deployed as a number two driver to help Lewis Hamilton's quest for the drivers' crown.

"We've done an exceptional job with what we have", Hamilton said. "I need to have a good look in the mirror again".

He added: "Suzuka is a much cooler circuit generally".

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