Hamilton needs more time to judge upgrades

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Lewis Hamilton is looking forward to FP3 tomorrow as he gets to grips with the upgrades for his Mercedes W04, with the first two practice sessions today giving him some mixed results.

Although the 2008 world champion said that he could feel a positive change, he was still not entirely pleased with how the car felt in the dry conditions of FP2.

“The team have done a great job to bring our upgrades here this weekend and whilst I could feel the impact immediately, it’s difficult to quantify how much of an improvement has been made at this early stage,” Hamilton said in a team statement. “After the first session this morning, I felt there was some good promise and the car was well-balanced but I was a little less happy in the different conditions this afternoon.

Like many, Hamilton was anticipating a late night in order to make sense of the data collected.

“We’ll keep working on it tonight and see if we can make tomorrow a little better.”

Team principal Ross Brawn was focusing on improving the long run pace of the W04, and particularly its tire management. In Bahrain, Nico Rosberg suffered from great degradation on his rear tires, causing him to drop to 9th come the checkered flag despite starting on pole.

“The car seems to be quite good on low fuel as we know,” Brawn said. “Tire degradation is going to be a key consideration over the weekend and we must remain focused to ensure that we get the best possible performance from the car in the race. That’s our priority.”

Mercedes will be chasing a third consecutive pole position in Spain this weekend, but they are yet to repeat their pre-season pace at the Circuit de Catalunya so far in practice.

F1 2017 driver review: Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 5
Races: 20
Wins: 5
Podiums (excluding wins): 8
Pole Positions: 4
Fastest Laps: 5
Points: 317
Laps Led: 286
Championship Position: 2nd

2017 was supposed to be the year Sebastian Vettel finally fulfilled his ambition of emulating Michael Schumacher by returning Ferrari to its championship-winning heyday.

Instead, it ended in disappointment and frustration – once again.

Ferrari arguably made a greater step across the change in technical regulations for 2017 than any other team, living up to its pre-season tag as favorite by winning the opening round in Australia in fashion.

Vettel and Ferrari led their respective championships following the Monaco Grand Prix as the German ended a 16-year win drought for the Prancing Horse in the principality, and even heading into the summer break, a shot at both championships was looking good.

However, cracks had started to appear. Vettel’s remarkable antics behind the safety car in Baku sparked controversy after driving into Hamilton, suggesting the tension of the title fight was beginning to take its toll on the German.

The final run of flyaways was where things really fell apart for Vettel, though. Singapore looked to be a slam-dunk win, only for a start-line crash also involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to put 25 free points in Hamilton’s pocket.

Reliability woes then struck in Malaysia and Japan – two more races Vettel could realistically have won – to make it game over in the title race, with Hamilton wrapping things up in Mexico.

Vettel only finished the year 46 points back from Hamilton, proving the impact the three bad races in Asia had. Realistically, this was a title race that should have gone down to the wire in Abu Dhabi. Instead, Vettel remains a four-time champion, level with Hamilton, who had just one to his name back in 2013 when his rival secured his fourth.

Ferrari’s internal issues will come under the microscope over the off-season, and Vettel himself knows there is plenty to work on. Staying cool under pressure and not letting things boil over as in Baku is the most obvious area for improvement.

But there is reason for hope. If Ferrari can keep up with Mercedes and repeat its impressive step into 2017 through the upcoming off-season, we may well be treated to another Vettel/Hamilton scrap at the front of the field, perhaps settling once and for all who is the greatest driver of the post-Schumacher era.

Season High: A crucial win in Hungary despite battling with a broken steering column.

Season Low: Letting tensions flare in Baku and hitting Hamilton behind the safety car.