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F1: Vettel concerned after losing pole to Hamilton

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SINGAPORE (AP) Asked what Mercedes is doing better than his Ferrari team, Sebastian Vettel chose not to go into detail.

It was late Saturday in sweltering Singapore and archrival Lewis Hamilton had just driven brilliantly to secure pole position for Mercedes.

Vettel sat glum-faced in the news conference after qualifying third, trailing Hamilton by a sizeable margin in Formula 1 terms: 0.6 seconds.

“Other people did a better job,” Vettel said tersely when asked what made the difference. “That includes Lewis’ lap as an individual, but (also) them as a team.”

Ferrari led after the second and third practice on a track suited to its car. Yet in qualifying, Hamilton was nearly one second faster than sixth-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

“Not happy with how the day went, it wasn’t as smooth as it should have been,” Vettel said. “Just disappointing we didn’t get the maximum out of our package. … Lewis had a good lap, congrats to him. But I don’t think it was unbeatable.”

Vettel was asked where his team could have done better.

“Going into detail, I don’t think there’s much point … maybe with preparing the qualifying,” he said. “(The laps) were not strong enough or good enough to be near.”

However, Vettel did seem impressed with Mercedes.

“I don’t want to take anything away from Lewis and their efforts as a team. Because they did great and that’s why they are on pole by quite a margin.”

Trailing Hamilton by 30 points, with six races left after Singapore, Vettel needs to win soon to stop Hamilton pulling away again. The British driver clinched the title last year, beating second-placed Vettel by 46 points.

Tensions have been creeping in at Ferrari.

At the rain-soaked German GP in July, Vettel looked certain to win but crashed while leading, gifting Hamilton an unexpected victory.

Vettel then botched qualifying in Hungary, again in the rain, as Hamilton took pole and won to stretch his series lead.

Then, at the Belgian GP, Vettel was unhappy with his team after running out of battery late in qualifying. He was beaten to pole by Hamilton, with Raikkonen sixth after the team couldn’t get him back out on track quickly enough with the end of the session approaching.

Although Ferrari took a convincing 1-2 in qualifying at the Italian GP two weeks ago – Raikkonen ahead of Vettel – Vettel spun off track after a shaky start and finished fourth to concede more ground.

Ferrari has made some alarming blunders for such a prestigious and famed team.

A team mechanic’s leg was broken by Raikkonen after an unsafe pit release at the Bahrain GP. In Hungary, the team forgot to fill Raikkonen’s drinks bottle, meaning he drove the whole race in sweltering conditions without water.

Ryan Norman returns to Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport in 2019

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Ryan Norman will return to Andretti Autosport for their third season together in 2019 after scoring his first win and first pole with that organization in 2018.

I’m really excited to finally make it official that I’ll be returning to Andretti Autosport for my third season competing in Indy Lights,” said Norman in a press release. “We’ve built a solid foundation over the past two years and I’m ready to fight for wins, podiums and ultimately the championship, with such a great group of people who have become like a family to me.”

Norman finished 2018 fourth in the championship, earning his first career win in race 15 of the 17-race schedule at Gateway Motorsports Park in August.

Norman’s first pole came in the finale at Portland International Raceway in September, but he crashed on the first lap and finished last (8th).

“We’re very happy that Ryan is rejoining us for his third season of Indy Lights,” said Andretti Autosport President, JF Thormann. “We were pleased with his performance this past season, and his potential as a driver began to really shine after his win at Gateway. He’s right on track with his progression plan put together by his engineering team, and we feel strongly that he has what it takes to be a contender for the 2019 championship.”

Norman will essentially replace teammates Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who will race for Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar next season.  O’Ward finished first in the Indy Lights standings last year; Herta finished second.

Norman’s 2019 campaign will begin on the streets of St. Petersburgh, Florida March 9, 2019. That will be the first of a double-header with Race 2 running the following day.