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Bad news for Vettel: Hamilton typically gets stronger after F1 break

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The bad news for Sebastian Vettel is that Lewis Hamilton usually gets stronger after Formula One’s summer break.

Hamilton leads second-placed Vettel by 24 points after winning the past two races, and the German driver needs little reminding his British rival turned around a 14-point deficit at the same stage last year to take the title by 46.

“The second half is always exciting, it’s always intense. It gets a bit better on our side,” said Hamilton, who won Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix from pole position.

“We need to apply more pressure in the second half. This is where we need to turn up the heat.”

Two weeks ago, he and his Mercedes team were trailing Vettel and Ferrari in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.

Ferrari was lapping up the compliments about having the quickest car on the circuit and Vettel seemed in the ascendancy after taking a superb pole in Germany.

With Hamilton 14th on the grid, because of a hydraulic failure , questions were being asked about the car’s reliability.

But thanks to his exquisite driving, and mistakes by Vettel and his team, the situation has turned back in favor of Mercedes.

For all of Ferrari’s new-found speed – estimated at times to be nearly 0.5 seconds quicker than Mercedes on some sectors of the track – Vettel remains prone to lapses in concentration and his team makes sloppy errors.

On Sunday, Ferrari botched the pit stops of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen after struggling to fit a tire quickly enough.

Raikkonen also had to drive the whole race – nearly 1 hour, 40 minutes in sweltering heat – without fluids after his team failed to properly attach his drinking bottle.

Earlier in the season, a mechanic’s leg was broken by the Finnish driver’s car following an unsafe pit release at the Bahrain GP.

In Hungary, Ferrari looked strong in practice only to wilt when rain fell in qualifying . This essentially handed Mercedes a 1-2 on the starting grid, with Valtteri Bottas alongside Hamilton.

In the previous race, rain again played havoc at Hockenheim as a nervy Vettel crashed near the end of the German GP. He had been ahead by almost 10 seconds and under no pressure.

Vettel, however, is convinced he can win the title.

“The pendulum seems to swing once this side, once that side,” he said after finishing second on Sunday. “Consistency is the key. I didn’t do myself a favor (in Germany) but it is part of racing.”

Raikkonen’s form is encouraging. While the 38-year-old driver has not won since the opening day of the 2013 season – when driving for Lotus – his third place in Hungary was a fifth consecutive podium finish, and eighth in 12 races.

Overall, he is 14 points ahead of fourth-place Bottas. Ten points separate Mercedes and Ferrari, and Raikkonen’s consistency could prove vital in helping his team land its first constructors’ title since 2008.

Vettel hopes points will flow freely, once glitches are ironed out.

“Last year we lost the championship because our car wasn’t quick enough in the final part of the season,” he said. “This year has shown our car is more efficient, our car is stronger and still has a lot of potential to unleash. So I’m quite confident with what’s in the pipeline.”

Will Power, Roger Penske collect Indy 500 trophies

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DETROIT (AP) Last year, Will Power finally broke through and won the Indianapolis 500, so he can cross that accomplishment off the list.

Now 37, Power is reaching an age when it’s fair to wonder how much longer he’ll keep at it.

“I’m really enjoying my racing. I’ve never been so motivated. I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, mentally on the game,” Power said. “I think once you get to this part of your career, you realize that you’re not going to be doing this forever. So you’ve got to enjoy it and you’ve got to go for it when you’ve got it, because, you know, probably only another five years at maximum, and you’re retired.”

Whenever Power’s career does wind down, his 2018 Indy 500 win will remain a moment to remember. He was in Detroit on Wednesday night with team owner Roger Penske for a ceremony in which they received their “Baby Borg” trophies for winning last year’s race. The Baby Borgs are replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy that honors the Indy 500 winner.

Power finished second at Indy in 2015, and his victory last year made him the race’s first Australian winner. It was Penske’s 17th Indy 500 win as an owner, part of a banner year for him. Penske also won a NASCAR Cup title with driver Joey Logano.

“When you think about 2018, we had 32 race wins, 35 poles. I think we led almost 5,400 laps, with all the series,” Penske said.

On Wednesday, Penske collected another significant trophy, and he’ll be celebrated again in a couple weeks. He’s being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 1.

“It’s amazing that a guy from the north can get into the Hall of Fame in the south,” Penske joked. “No, it’s special. … NASCAR has helped us build our brand over the years, certainly, with the reputation it has, and the notoriety we get, being a NASCAR team owner.”

Penske’s most recent Indy 500 title came courtesy of Power, who long preferred road courses to ovals but certainly looked comfortable at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

“The 500 was one record that he didn’t have, and I think you saw the excitement he and his wife, and the whole team, when he was able to win the race,” Penske said. “He’s probably the best qualifier we’ve ever had, as a road racer, and no question his expertise. He didn’t like ovals to start with, but I think today, he loves racing on ovals.”

Power seems content with all aspects of his racing life at the moment. The aftermath of an Indy 500 victory can be a whirlwind, and it would be understandable for a driver to be weary of it eight months later, but for Power, it’s a new experience.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for a few months now, to actually get the Baby Borg. You have the face on it – I didn’t realize that, you actually get your own face on it,” Power said. “It makes you realize the significance of the event, when you think about all the things that come with winning the 500.”

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