MEXICO CITY (AP) Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that another Formula One championship would be one earned by him and Mercedes – not one thrown away by Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel won the first two races of 2018 to set up what promised to be a dramatic chase for a fifth career championship between him and Hamilton. Now Hamilton’s dominant second half of the season, helped by a rash of mistakes by Vettel and Ferrari, has the Mercedes driver set to win the crown even if he finishes as low as seventh Sunday.
“I see a lot of people write a lot of stories saying things have been `handed’ to Mercedes this season,” Hamilton said. “That naturally takes away from the job the team and I have done.”
Vettel has taken criticism over Ferrari’s season of miscues. That includes last week at the U.S. Grand Prix, won by his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen while Vettel missed the podium.
Vettel said the driver with the most points at the end of the season deservedly wins the title. Saying another driver lost it wouldn’t be fair, he said.
“For the words to come from a four-time world champion, that’s positive to hear,” Hamilton said in advance of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. “He’s been a great competitor this year. It’s been so hot for both of us. I look forward to many more years of us racing together right at the top.”
Ferrari’s blunders certainly made Hamilton’s season easier. There have been crashes, pit stop and tire mistakes, and practice penalties that cost Ferrari wins and race position.
Vettel’s last victory came in Belgium six races ago and he’s missed the podium three times in the last five. The U.S. Grand Prix included Vettel’s three-spot starting grid penalty and an early-lap bump with Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo that caused him to spin.
Vettel had the car for the podium in Texas, maybe even the win, but he didn’t have the patience.
Other drivers on the grid were reluctant to criticize Vettel’s season, but noted the German might have driven too hard out of desperation..
“I think Sebastian is a fantastic driver. It’s very hard to judge the performance of someone when you’re not on the team and you don’t know exactly what is going on,” said Force India’s Sergio Perez. “Obviously we have seen some mistakes. Probably at the end he was just desperate, trying to achieve what was probably not possible, but he’s a four-time world champion.”
Raikkonen, who has only three races left with Ferrari before he switches to Sauber in 2019, tread lightly.
“Sometimes it happens and he pushes and he pushes and he pushes and sometimes he gets it wrong and unfortunately it happened to him a few times,” Raikkonen said. “I think we’ve all gone through it. It’s part of the game.”
Follow Jim Vertuno at https://twitter.com/jimvertuno