F1: Vettel under pressure to start closing gap on Hamilton

Getty Images
0 Comments

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Sebastian Vettel needs to quickly start closing the gap on Lewis Hamilton or he risks watching the Formula One title slip out of his grasp once again.

Vettel lost his way after the summer break last year, winning only one of nine races compared to five by Hamilton.

As the second half of the season resumes at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, the situation is urgent. He already trails Hamilton by 24 points.

“We went into that break with the best feeling as a team,” Hamilton said Thursday. “We know the areas we need to improve on … There’s more juice to come.”

Vettel led Hamilton by 14 points at the same stage last year and still lost the title by 46.

Hamilton acknowledges his position of strength has boosted him after Vettel seemed in the ascendancy earlier in the season.

“When you do have a little bit of a buffer, subconsciously for sure there must be some positive effect,” Hamilton said. “But I still have exactly the same approach as the previous races, which naturally means extension (of the lead). I don’t want that pendulum to go back the other way. So how do I stop that? That’s the question.”

Both drivers are chasing a fifth F1 title – to move level with Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio – but it’s Vettel who has more questions to answer.

Hamilton took the momentum from Vettel last month by winning back-to-back races heading into the summer break, aided by a glaring error from Vettel when he crashed out of the rain-soaked German GP while leading by a comfortable margin of 10 seconds.

Vettel then made errors in qualifying at the Hungarian GP – once again in the rain – effectively gifting Hamilton a win from pole when Mercedes was struggling with a slower car.

“He can only tell you if he feels the pressure,” Hamilton said. “The pressure on me is as great as it can be, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I welcome it.”

While Hamilton rarely loses his composure, Vettel remains prone to lapses in concentration and makes unusually sloppy errors for a four-time F1 champion.

The German GP at Hockenheim last month and the 2017 Singapore GP – where he crashed from pole position when poised to regain the championship lead – are the most striking examples. In the space of three races last year, Vettel dropped twice as far behind Lewis Hamilton as he was ahead of him.

The German driver must find a way to avoid another slump. He will have no excuses if he doesn’t with Ferrari’s car arguably quicker than Mercedes.

This weekend’s Belgian GP at the Spa circuit – which at 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) is the longest in F1 – could offer Vettel a way back in.

“They seemed to have a step in power and this is a power circuit,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know how we will fare with them power-wise.”

Hamilton recharged his batteries during the summer break by travelling extensively and turning his phone off, he said – he’s usually very active on social media.

“I left the phone in my hotel, in the safe, didn’t charge it every day and went through several days without it,” Hamilton said. “It was one of the best things.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media
0 Comments

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.