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Vettel keen to avoid overhyping Hamilton F1 clash, wants to move on

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Sebastian Vettel has called on the Formula 1 community to move on from his clash with Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car in Azerbaijan two weeks ago, having apologized to his rival and expressed his regret over the incident.

Vettel was deemed to have driven dangerously when he gave Hamilton’s car a side-swipe in Baku, reacting after believing he was brake-tested by the Mercedes driver.

Vettel was hit with an in-race penalty before being further investigated by the FIA, who opted against taking further action when the Ferrari racer took full responsibility for his actions.

Facing the media in Thursday’s FIA press conference in Austria, Vettel said that he would like to move on from the incident after speaking privately with Hamilton to clear things up.

“I had the chance to quickly talk to Lewis after the race but I don’t want to pump this up more than it is already,” Vettel said.

“I think it is my right, our right, to keep this between us. But I think I’ve said everything I need to say.

“I think it was the wrong decision. Obviously I got a penalty in the race and lost a potential race win. We couldn’t foresee Lewis was running into a problem with his headrest but it could have been a lot more points at stake.

“It was the wrong move to drive alongside him and hit his tires. That’s what you’re all here to hear about, but there’s not much more to talk about.

“At the time I was surprised, it felt like Lewis hit the brakes and I couldn’t stop running into the back of his car but as I said in the statement and afterwards I don’t think there was any intention and that he actually brake-tested me.

“That’s why I was upset and overreacted. Am I proud of moment? No. Can I take it back? No. Do I regret it? Yes.

“So I don’t think we need to drag it out any further.”

With the clash now behind him, Vettel has turned his attention to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix where he does not think the incident will have any bearing on his decisions behind the wheel.

“I am quite happy to get into the car tomorrow. I think come practice, come race day you try to do your best,” Vettel said.

“Obviously you’re very busy driving the car, when you fight someone. We know that overtaking is not easy so I don’t think you have much time to think, you’re planning an overtake etc.

“I think here I would say that it doesn’t impact on the next race and who you’re racing.”

The clash with Hamilton was not the first example of Vettel’s emotions boiling over behind the wheel, with the four-time champion risking the wrath of the FIA in Mexico last year when he insulted the race director over the radio.

Vettel was asked directly in Thursday’s press conference if he felt he had a problem with his temperament, to which he said: “I don’t think so. I can see why you might believe it’s not.

“I think I have faced a lot of situations which have been quite hot, but I don’t think so.”

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.