Vettel must seize chance to strike at Hamilton

2017 United States Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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To have any chance of getting back into the championship fight, Sebastian Vettel simply has to take points off Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

But ironically Vettel’s excellent final lap in Q3 yesterday which split the Mercedes drivers could work against his favour. It moved him up to second on the grid, which means he is closer to Hamilton but potentially faces the disadvantage of starting from the dirty side of the track.

US GP qualifying and practice in pictures
The Circuit of the Americas has a reputation for being a track where it’s best to bag a starting position on the racing line. At the first race in 2012 the drivers who qualified first, third, fifth and seventh ended lap one in the top four places. The following year the top three starters on the racing line were one-two-three as lap two began.

As the track surface has worn in the benefit of starting on the racing line has diminished somewhat but it’s still noticeable. Vettel, therefore, needs to ensure he gets away well and hope that Hamilton doesn’t.

Vettel’s championship predicament is such that if he gets even the slightest sniff of a look down the inside of Hamilton at turn one he is sure to take it. Being on the inside will put him in position of power. Hanging Hamilton out to dry on the outside – as Hamilton famously did to title rival and team mate Nico Rosberg two years ago – would increase his chances of slipping back into the pack, which Vettel badly needs to happen.

But Hamilton has kept his lead in nine of the ten times he’s started from pole position so far this year – a significant improvement on last year. If Vettel can’t get by him again, he may be forced to settle for keeping the championship alive for one more race. To do that, if Hamilton wins, Vettel must finish in the top five.

Drivers will find somewhat different track conditions for the race than they experienced yesterday. Heavy rain fell at the circuit early on Sunday morning but has now stopped and no more is expected before the race begins. Nonetheless it will have swept away any build-up of rubber and could give drivers concerns over graining their tyres.

The lower track temperatures expected today also won’t help that, but could also tip the balance more in Mercedes’ favour. Ferrari can at least console themselves in the knowledge that they were only two-tenths off Mercedes in qualifying, and they tend to be closer in the races.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.8221’33.437 (-1.385)1’33.108 (-0.329)
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1’35.4201’34.103 (-1.317)1’33.347 (-0.756)
3Valtteri BottasMercedes1’35.3091’33.769 (-1.540)1’33.568 (-0.201)
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’35.9911’34.495 (-1.496)1’33.577 (-0.918)
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’35.6491’33.840 (-1.809)1’33.577 (-0.263)
6Max VerstappenRed Bull1’34.8991’34.716 (-0.183)1’33.658 (-1.058)
7Esteban OconForce India1’35.8491’35.113 (-0.736)1’34.647 (-0.466)
8Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’35.5171’34.899 (-0.618)1’34.852 (-0.047)
9Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’35.7121’35.046 (-0.666)1’35.007 (-0.039)
10Sergio PerezForce India1’36.3581’34.789 (-1.569)1’35.148 (+0.359)
11Felipe MassaWilliams1’35.6031’35.155 (-0.448)
12Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1’36.0731’35.529 (-0.544)
13Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’36.2861’35.641 (-0.645)
14Romain GrosjeanHaas1’36.8351’35.870 (-0.965)
15Nico HulkenbergRenault1’35.740
16Marcus EricssonSauber1’36.842
17Lance StrollWilliams1’36.868
18Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’36.889
19Pascal WehrleinSauber1’37.179
20Kevin MagnussenHaas1’37.394

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton24.861 (1)37.434 (1)30.660 (2)
Sebastian Vettel25.008 (5)37.700 (4)30.639 (1)
Valtteri Bottas24.988 (4)37.525 (2)30.935 (6)
Daniel Ricciardo25.140 (6)37.642 (3)30.795 (4)
Kimi Raikkonen24.914 (2)37.723 (5)30.805 (5)
Max Verstappen24.937 (3)37.806 (6)30.720 (3)
Esteban Ocon25.409 (9)37.895 (7)31.317 (10)
Carlos Sainz Jnr25.351 (8)38.095 (9)31.296 (9)
Fernando Alonso25.421 (10)38.227 (10)31.171 (7)
Sergio Perez25.342 (7)38.088 (8)31.236 (8)
Felipe Massa25.456 (11)38.302 (11)31.338 (11)
Daniil Kvyat25.531 (12)38.368 (13)31.630 (15)
Stoffel Vandoorne25.607 (14)38.599 (14)31.435 (12)
Romain Grosjean25.535 (13)38.726 (15)31.592 (13)
Nico Hulkenberg25.827 (16)38.311 (12)31.602 (14)
Marcus Ericsson26.002 (18)38.902 (18)31.938 (17)
Lance Stroll25.806 (15)38.995 (19)31.803 (16)
Brendon Hartley26.057 (19)38.796 (17)32.036 (18)
Pascal Wehrlein26.205 (20)38.790 (16)32.120 (19)
Kevin Magnussen25.999 (17)39.235 (20)32.160 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes330.8 (205.5)
2Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes330.7 (205.5)-0.1
3Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes328.7 (204.2)-2.1
4Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes328.6 (204.2)-2.2
5Felipe MassaWilliamsMercedes326.1 (202.6)-4.7
6Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari325.9 (202.5)-4.9
7Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari324.8 (201.8)-6.0
8Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari324.4 (201.6)-6.4
9Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes323.7 (201.1)-7.1
10Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari323.5 (201.0)-7.3
11Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer322.8 (200.6)-8.0
12Pascal WehrleinSauberFerrari322.5 (200.4)-8.3
13Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari321.8 (200.0)-9.0
14Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer321.8 (200.0)-9.0
15Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault320.9 (199.4)-9.9
16Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault319.8 (198.7)-11.0
17Brendon HartleyToro RossoRenault319.8 (198.7)-11.0
18Daniil KvyatToro RossoRenault319.8 (198.7)-11.0
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenHonda314.8 (195.6)-16.0
20Fernando AlonsoMcLarenHonda310.7 (193.1)-20.1

Drivers’ remaining tyres

Lewis HamiltonMercedes11103
Valtteri BottasMercedes11103
Daniel RicciardoRed Bull12003
Max VerstappenRed Bull11112
Sebastian VettelFerrari10203
Kimi RaikkonenFerrari10203
Sergio PerezForce India11004
Esteban OconForce India11004
Felipe MassaWilliams11023
Lance StrollWilliams11032
Fernando AlonsoMcLaren11004
Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren11014
Daniil KvyatToro Rosso11014
Brendon HartleyToro Rosso12013
Romain GrosjeanHaas11014
Kevin MagnussenHaas11032
Nico HulkenbergRenault11041
Carlos Sainz JnrRenault11004
Marcus EricssonSauber111013
Pascal WehrleinSauber111013

Over to you

Hamilton and Vettel are back on the front row again but will we finally get the showdown we were denied at Suzuka? Have your say in the comments.

Share your views on the United States Grand Prix in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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20 comments on “Vettel must seize chance to strike at Hamilton”

  1. At this point taking points off Hamilton wont help much, with Bottas there to support Hamilton while the “golden boy” will left alone without Kimi’s help.

    1. Where does that “golden boy” nonsense come from?

      1. He’s just trolling… best to ignore

        1. @thedoctor03
          Yeah, that I already knew.
          But still, I’ve seen others use that, in quotation marks or not (and exclusively in overt or covert hate speech). And I have absolutely no idea where that comes from.

          1. nase, the first time that I saw it being used, it was actually being used to criticise Marko rather than Vettel and the way in which Marko would so aggressively attack those who criticised Vettel or even suggested that Vettel was guilty of any offence.

            It seemed to me to become more prevalent after the 2010 Turkish GP, where he repeatedly criticised Webber in the press whilst absolving Vettel of all blame for the clash (to the point where he was saying that Vettel was right to turn towards Webber even if knew that Webber was still alongside him and such a move could lead to a crash).

            It seemed to me that people were rather riled at Marko’s rather obnoxious behaviour at the time (with Webber indicating in his biography that even Vettel found some of Marko’s behaviour rather embarrassing) and his almost obsessive attitude towards “protecting” Vettel.

            To that end, I saw some fans refer to Vettel as Marko’s “golden child” as Vettel seemed to be so precious to Marko that he would so aggressively attack other drivers if he though they’d wronged Vettel, even when they were his own drivers (such as the time that he started shouting abuse at Alguersuari in the garage because he accidentally held Vettel up during a practise session).
            Over time, as Marko seemed to have more of a negative impact on Vettel’s attitude at the team, that nickname seems to have stuck to Vettel as Marko and Vettel became more closely associated with one another – at least, that is what I recall of the situation, though others might have a different take on the matter.

  2. Being on the inside will put him in position of power. Hanging Hamilton out to dry on the outside – as Hamilton famously did to title rival and team mate Nico Rosberg two years ago – would increase his chances of slipping back into the pack, which Vettel badly needs to happen.

    It’s been two years, and I still find it infuriating. There was nothing passive, not a trace of a “you brought that upon yourself” apect, about the incident, it was a clear shove and deliberate act of forcing another driver off the track. Completely incompatible with tons of other rulings. Glorifying that kind of driving makes me sick to my stomach.

    1. If it has been 2 years and you are still infuriated you must be apoplectic at what Vettel did to Hamilton in Spain .. and god knows how angry you are over what Vettel did to Hamilton in Baku

      1. @Martin Double standard of course from @nase. When Hamilton does it he’s still raging inside but when Vettel pushing people of the track in Silverstone or crashing into people in Baku he simply ignores it.

    2. Michael Brown (@)
      22nd October 2017, 16:23

      I find it unsportsmanlike but it is legal, since we’ve seen plenty of examples of that kind of move in the past. The stewards view the driver ahead and on the racing line as the one who has the right to the corner, so that driver is allowed to “hang people out to dry,” a euphemism for pushing drivers beside them off the track.

      This has happened plenty of times over the years, with no penalties given. Magnussen did push Hülkenberg off the track in Hungary this year, but Magnussen left the racing line to do it, so he was penalized.

      The rule that states that drivers must leave space for cars alongside them only applies to straights.

      1. @mbr-9 Exactly, I would expect everyone of the top drivers to do the same thing. We’ve already seen the kind of Driver Max is with his (now regulated) antics under braking to the driver behind.

        Again I expect nothing less from any of the Top drivers @ the OP you’ve not been watching enough F1 over the years if it makes you feel that way. That was nothing compared to Senna and Schumacher who both used the deliberate crash to ruin a rivals chances.

    3. I’d be really quite happy to see Hamilton do the same to Vettel if it’s a legal move. And would have no complaints if it’s the opposite. Wheel-to-wheel contact with no damage to anyone or their car, what’s the problem? If one car has the racing line, it’s up to the other to cede or cause contact, even if they’re driven wide (as long as it’s not at a danger spot). No more aggressive than Vettel hurtling towards Verstappen and causing a 4-car collision. A lot less in fact. Still it’s Hamilton, so some unmeasured hostility is to be expected.

    4. tgu (@thegrapeunwashed)
      22nd October 2017, 17:17

      nase, you must get sick to your stomach quite a lot. How about this year when Vettel clearly, deliberately and unnecessarily pushed Verstappen off track at Silverstone? Hamilton at least had the excuse that he’d won the racing line and was taking the corner as normal, whereas Vettel had to steer off his normal line to deny Verstappen a chance.

      1. @thegrapeunwashed He simply don’t care about it. He’s only focussing when Hamilton does something to be angry about, always the double standard.

    5. Surprised such a small, insignificant and entirely legal move can create such ill-feeling…

    6. Maybe you should try to understand the rules about who has the ritghts to the racing line and who should yield. Perhaps you’d be less infuriated then.

      Just wondering. Are you just as infuriated how Vettel shoved Hamilton off in Spain? Exact same move, but somehow I get the feeling you would react differently to that one.

  3. At the first race in 2012 the drivers who qualified first, third, fifth and seventh ended lap one in the top four places.

    Not according to – the top 4 at the end of lap 1 were Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, who had respectively started 1st, 3rd, 2nd, and 7th (thanks to Ferrari changing Massa’s gearbox to move Alonso onto the better side of the grid).

    The situation described has incidentally happened at least once before, in Hungary 2003.

  4. I don’t think Vettel can do much in start except for a mistake start from Hamilton. If both go to the corner and vettel tries to squeeze Hamilton then Hamilton can do whatever he wants to hold his spot risking a crash or anything relative.
    The championship points difference and the 3 races to go is in Hamilton favor in everything and noone can accuse him if he does hold his ground.
    To me this championship is allready finished and only exceptional circumstances of bad luck and bad management can turn it arround which is a thing that Mercedes and Hamilton dont seem to suffer lately.

    1. @bluechris True, Vettel has a lot more to lose by colliding with Hamilton. He may even lose his 2nd place in the drivers’ championship if he takes himself and Hamilton out in the first corner.

      1. This is not what im talking about, im talking about Hammilton, he has all the cards in his hands, no matter what will huppent he cannot loose this championship.
        I hope Ferrari and Vettel learn alot from this year mistakes.

  5. It absolutely threw it down this morning, delayed the circuit opening due to a Lightning Storm that we enjoyed from our hire car!

Comments are closed.