Lewis Hamilton is concerned Mercedes’ poor showing in Singapore could be repeated at the Japanese Grand Prix next Sunday and is still waiting for an explanation from his team.
Mercedes went into the Formula One race at the Marina Bay circuit on Sunday a second and a half slower than Ferrari, having been half a second quicker in the previous race at Monza. To compound the championship leader’s miserable weekend a loss of power forced him to retire for the first time in 20 races, leaving Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel to make up ground in the title race.
Hamilton would no doubt like Mercedes to resume their swaggering dominance at Suzuka but said: “I don’t have any confidence. I don’t have any information to give me that confidence. I’m hoping it’s a one-off but it was a strange weekend to say the least. Our car has not got slower. I told my engineers I would like some information about what they think it was but there’s not a lot of time before thenext race.”
Mercedes could not get their tyres to work in the smaller than usual peak operating window presented by the conditions at Singapore but no one knows why. Even a bad tyre day fails to explain why Mercedes were so far off the pace.
Hamilton rejected the conspiracy theory that Mercedes may have been given inferior tyres. “I don’t believe so. Why should I think that? I’ve never heard of that in Formula One. Has it happened before? I’ve never seen it. I don’t think so.”
Despite the unfamiliar feeling of a flat grand prix Hamilton attempted to put on a brave face. “I’m very chilled about Singapore,” he said. “I went there to do a job. I’m fully aware you can’t win them all. We’re very fortunate to have had the success we’ve had. Again I performed how I hoped to perform, I was ahead of my team-mate in qualifying and in the race.
“The car broke down. That was the first time in a long time. And I didn’t lose a huge amount of points to the guy who’s right behind me. It could have been a lot worse, so I’m looking at the glass half-full. I’m just hoping things go back to normal and the tyres work again.”
Mercedes are expected to return to their best on the long straights and fast corners of Suzuka. Hamilton and Rosberg dominated qualifying and the race last year but Singapore was such an unexplained jolt no one is entirely certain.
For neutrals there was nothing bad about the outcome of the race. Ferrari, who had updated their car, looked strong as Vettel closed the gap with Hamilton to 49 points. He is only eight points behind Nico Rosberg in second with six races left.
Christian Horner said Vettel, his former driver, is back in contention. “I think it is a long shot and I think it is very easy to get carried away in the moment,” the Red Bull team chief said. “What has been difficult to understand is the fact Mercedes have struggled to be competitive. If that carries through, then Ferrari have a chance.”
The Lotus owner, Gérard Lopez, said his team’s takeover by Renault is still a long way from being completed. “It’s not a secret both parties have been working to do something but it’s not done yet,” he told Motorsport.com. “At the end of the day the decision will be with the boss of Renault and Nissan [Carlos Ghosn].”
A 27-year-old British national, Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia, appeared in court on Tuesday after jumping on to the track during the Singapore GP. He was accused of committing a rash act and endangering the safety of the drivers. Yogvitam’s passport has been impounded and additional charges may be brought. If convicted, he could face six months in prison.
This article was written by Paul Weaver in Tokyo, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 22.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010