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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.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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