Vettel regrets getting too close on Belgian GP restart as F1 points lead shrinks

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Sebastian Vettel says his pace at the restart of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix following a safety car period was “too good”, inadvertently costing him the chance to deny Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton victory at Spa.

Vettel qualified second in Belgium and tailed Hamilton for much of the early part of the race, with a small gap emerging entering its final quarter.

A safety car period bunched the leaders again, with Vettel fitting the ultra-soft compound that looked set to give him a pace advantage.

A perfect restart allowed Vettel to draw right up toward Hamilton’s diffuser on the run down to Eau Rouge, only for the German to get too close and have to ease off, costing him straight line speed that may have allowed him to pass at the end of the Kemmel Straight.

Without this edge, Vettel could not find a way through, with Hamilton pulling clear to take his fifth win of the season and cut the gap at the top of the drivers’ championship down to just seven points.

“Obviously I knew that we had a tire advantage with the ultra-softs versus the softs for the first couple of laps and particularly the restart,” Vettel said.

“You could see exiting Turn 1 I was all over Lewis. It was not so hard to follow so close, maybe that was the problem, my restart in the initial part was too good, it was too close.

“For sure if I had to do it again, maybe I would try something different. We know that they have a very good straight line speed, and in qualy mode at the start of the race, I obviously felt how strong they were up the hill on the start. So I didn’t want to be too far either.

“Finding that optimum is difficult. Lewis also lifted a bit going down to Eau Rouge, which I think he could afford because he knows he’s got a very good top-end speed.”

While Hamilton and Vettel were not engaged in much direct battling on-track, the Ferrari driver enjoyed going toe-to-toe with his championship rival.

“Overall it was a very good race, very fun. Obviously not that exciting probably to watch because we were very close but nothing happened,” Vettel said.

“But good fun in the car because I was waiting for him to maybe have an error, he was waiting for me to maybe have an error, an off. It didn’t happen. The quality was very high I thought. Very consistent lap times despite the tires.

“[I] never really had a chance, so maybe half a chance, quarter of a chance. I think the positive thing is that we had very good race pace. It was very difficult to follow in the middle sector, but we stayed close, then we benefitted a little bit in the first and the last sector, but overall the car was very good.”

Ferrari had been expected to struggle at Spa given the similarities with Silverstone, another high-speed circuit, giving Vettel a boost after proving the critics wrong.

“I think we didn’t change too much compared to Silverstone, which shows on the one hand that Silverstone was just a bad weekend,” Vettel said.

“But it shows we improved the car also, especially race pace, very strong when we were on average a second off at Silverstone. So it’s a big step.

“So I’m very, very happy. I think we’re on the right track, and I don’t think we have a circuit we should fear going from now.”

Pirelli reveals new super-hard, hyper-soft F1 tires in Abu Dhabi

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Pirelli has confirmed it will add two new tires to its range for the 2018 Formula 1 season, launching the ‘super-hard’ and ‘hyper-soft’ compounds in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Pirelli currently makes three of its five dry compounds available to teams for each race weekend, and despite varying selections across the course of the season has struggled to offer much in terms of strategy options, with one-stop races being the norm.

The hope is that the addition of two new tire compounds and a re-alignment of their durability will offer teams more choices in races.

Pirelli confirmed plans to introduce a new softest tire below the current ultra-soft earlier this month, inviting fans to pick a name.

The pink-colored compound will be known as the ‘hyper-soft’ from next year, with the arrival of a new ‘super-hard’ (colored ‘ice blue’) also being confirmed at a launch event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“Compared to this year, when the tires grew by 25% to fit a brand-new generation of cars, the changes for next year are less far-reaching,” Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola said.

“However, we’re pleased to present some important innovations with softer and faster compounds across the range: including the new hypersoft.

“We realized that, under the unique circumstances of this year, some of our 2017 compounds were perhaps conservative: the tires we have created for 2018 addresses this, in line with the objective of having around two pit stops at most races.

“However, the fundamental design concept of the tires hasn’t changed next year, preserving the attributes that all drivers have appreciated this year and allowing them to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.

“The new range consists of faster tires that should lead to even harder and more spectacular racing in 2018.”

Besides the seven dry compounds made available, there will be the two rain tires – wet and intermediate – taking it to a total of nine for the 2018 season.