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Vettel finds Ferrari pace ‘promising’ after Malaysia fightback

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Sebastian Vettel may have lost more ground on Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, but called Ferrari’s pace “promising” after fighting from last on the grid to finish fourth.

Vettel was unable to post a lap time in qualifying due to an engine issue on his Ferrari, leaving him P20 for the start of the race.

A good getaway saw Vettel rise to P13 on the first lap alone before rising further up the order throughout the first stint.

A late bid to pass Daniel Ricciardo for third place proved fruitless as Vettel’s tires dropped in performance, but the German was nevertheless pleased to finish fourth, with his race pace looking stronger than that of Hamilton’s at a track where Mercedes was expected to dominate.

“I am still optimistic, because we know that we have a quick car. Of course it was a shame for Kimi [Raikkonen] who couldn’t take the start, and for me having to begin my race from the back of the grid,” Vettel said.

“We tried to fight for the podium, pushed very hard, but in the end the tires were starting to give up and we couldn’t be really there. However, it is promising to see the car is good, even if both Kimi and I hit trouble this weekend.

“I don’t know yet if the issue is the same on both cars, we’ll need to have a look. For sure it’s not ideal having one car out yesterday and another one today. So, there’s something we need to understand.

“It’s been a difficult weekend, but nevertheless the speed is there. So far we’ve had a pretty good record for this year regarding reliability.

“I am not that worried to be honest, but we need to get on top of the problem.”

With Hamilton finishing second, Vettel saw the gap at the top of the drivers’ standings grow to 34 points with five races remaining, the next taking place at Suzuka in one week’s time.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.