Hamilton expects 2017 F1 title fight with Vettel to be closest yet

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Lewis Hamilton¬†expects the fight for the 2017 Formula 1 drivers’ championship with Sebastian Vettel to be one of the closest of his career after drawing level in the points standings with his first win of the season in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton lost out to Vettel at the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago, but bounced back in China by leading every lap of the race en route to his fifth win in Shanghai.

The result sees Hamilton tie with Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship after the Ferrari driver finished second on Sunday, setting the tone for a season-long battle – something the Mercedes man relishes.

“I think it’s going to be one of the closest [title fights], if not the closest that I’ve ever experienced,” Hamilton said.

“I’m looking forward to this fight, not only with Sebastian but the other guys as well who are going to be in amongst it. Ferrari have done a fantastic job and I think its’ great that we’re both pushing.

“Those last 20 laps, really exchanging times. I kept having to be fed what times he was doing so I could try and match it. He was closing the gap a little bit, but managed to stay ahead.”

As well as the threat from Vettel, Hamilton also had to battle against the weather in Shanghai as rain in the lead-up to lights out left the track wet, warranting intermediate tires for the sport and making grip hard to find.

“Today was very, very tough for us all. I went out on the inters initially on the laps to the grid, and then I tried the slick which was impossible,” Hamilton explained.

“We all started on inters and it was very, very hard because there were dry patches everywhere, mostly dry. There were a couple of corners which were wet, so trying to keep the car on the track and look after the tyres at the same time was very, very tough.

“I just want to say a big thank you to this team, I’m just so tremendously proud of everyone, my own personal team and staff and that, and my team who work so hard back at the factory to make it possible.

“This race [against Ferrar] is so real, it’s so exciting for me personally. I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but I hope they’re enjoying it.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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