Kvyat continues impressive start to his F1 career with 10th in China

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Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat is 19 years old, and he’s already more than a fifth of the way to scoring as many World Championship points as his age through just his first four Grands Prix.

The rookie posted his third points scoring result in the first four races, with his only a miss an 11th at Bahrain. Sunday in China, he ended 10th, ending ahead of teammate Jean-Eric Vergne and both McLaren-Mercedes among other luminaries in the second half of the grid.

“I had a good start and I managed to make up some positions during the first lap,” said Kyvat, who started 13th but quickly moved into points-scoring positions. “Our pace was very strong today and I enjoyed the fight with Jenson pretty much throughout the race. We did a good job with the tyre management, so we were able to stay out longer.”

Although he’s been pleased with the quick start, Toro Rosso, like most teams in the field, will be primed to upgrade entering the European portion of the season.

Kyvat made Q3 in Melbourne with eighth place – still, Vergne has made it to Q3 three times in four races and on all occasions, outqualified the rookie. That’s something Kyvat seeks to improve upon for future races.

“Even though it all went very well today, I think there’s still a lot more to come from the car, so I’m really looking forward to starting the European part of the season, where I hope to get some more points,” Kyvat said.

Vergne, who finished 12th, was diplomatic in his post-race comments although frustrated with himself to lose time from ninth on the grid at the start.

“First of all, congratulations to Daniil for his good race and another point for him and the team,” said the third-year Frenchman. “As for my race, I had a bad start and a bad first lap. We need to understand what happened exactly to improve this aspect. After that, I could not make the best out of the option tyres because I was stuck behind Button, so it was not possible to build a gap and pull away.

“It was definitely a tough race but we should not have to forget some positive aspects: we had a really good qualifying yesterday, the general pace was not bad and we know exactly the direction to take in order to improve. This is the reason why I’m convinced that we can be stronger in a few weeks’ time in Barcelona.”

Hamilton and Vettel already focused on 2018 F1 title battle

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are already looking forward to fighting each other for a fifth Formula One title next year.

With Hamilton wrapping up this year’s title two races ago, the pressure is off this week at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Both are projecting to 2018, where the four-time champions get back to the serious business of trying to catch Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio on five titles.

“Certainly we will never match him in how successful he was in such a short space of time,” Vettel said on Thursday at a news conference. “Back then racing was different. The cars were not that reliable and he still managed to be successful. (He was) the best we’ve ever had in terms of putting it all together and skill.”

Only Michael Schumacher with seven titles has won more than Fangio, who drove in F1 from 1950-58.

“It was the most dangerous period of time in motorsport. I feel honored to be so close to such a great sporting icon,” Hamilton said of Fangio. “He should be celebrated more for his success. He’s not mentioned a huge amount. He’s kind of the godfather of the sport for the drivers.”

Some may come to revere Hamilton like that in time.

He has won 62 races – second only to Schumacher’s 91 – and holds the record for pole positions with 72. The 32-year-old British driver has won three of the past four titles – losing to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 – and was at the peak of his powers this season.

After trailing Vettel at the halfway point, he pulled away after the summer break and leads the German driver by 43 points.

Hamilton is arguably the fiercest competitor around and is already thinking about how Vettel plans to turn the tables.

“Whatever weakness Sebastian had, he’ll work on those over the winter. No one’s perfect, even I have things to work on,” Hamilton said, without a trace of irony. “He’s going to raise the bar next year and I’ll have to as well, otherwise things won’t be the same.

“Ferrari had a very, very good season. Half the season they were in the lead and that wasn’t down to luck,” Hamilton added. “Red Bull is also going to be (competing for the title) next year.”

Considering how poor Ferrari was in 2016, this year can still be viewed as a success with Vettel winning five races compared to none last year.

Vettel joked that winning the title in 2018 will be “a walk in the park” if Ferrari improves by the same amount, then took a more serious view of the situation.

“That final step is always the hardest. But the team is ready and fired up,” said Vettel, who won four titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. “We made the biggest step of all. We lost out as the season progressed. In the end we weren’t good enough to take it to the last race, but there’s so much potential still.”

He accepted that he ultimately fell short because “Lewis made less mistakes” than he did.

Poised to regain the championship lead, he crashed out of the Singapore GP from pole position back in September – turning the tide in Hamilton’s favor. Reliability issues plagued Ferrari at the next two races. He started last and finished fourth at the Malaysian GP and then qualified third before retiring from the Japanese GP.

In June, the rivals were embroiled in their most heated clash at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Vettel drove alongside Hamilton’s Mercedes as they waited behind the safety car for the restart, and was adjudged to have deliberately nudged the side of him. Tempers frayed and barbs were exchanged. Vettel initially denied it was deliberate but subsequently apologized for dangerous driving.

That incident genuinely threatened to spoil their healthy rivalry, but they joke about it now.

Asked on Thursday what their highlight of the season was, both drivers – sitting next to each other – laughed easily when Baku was suggested.

Referring to the upcoming end-of-season F1 awards, Vettel put himself forward for three.

“I should get (overtaking) move of the year, personality of the year, and fair play … maybe not.”