Sebastian Vettel needs to start eating into Lewis Hamilton's 30-point championship lead — and soon! A string of mistakes and mishaps in recent races has put the Ferrari hopeful on the back foot.
Sebastian Vettel really needs a good result — and a clean race — in Singapore on Sunday.
The German's Ferrari enjoyed the upper hand in terms of pure pace at most of the mid-season races in Europe, but Vettel's own errors and misfortunes have allowed Lewis Hamilton to open up a 30-point lead in his Mercedes.
The 31-year-old made no bones about the situation himself on arrival in Singapore on Thursday, telling reporters: "I think the biggest enemy is me."
"It's pretty straightforward," Vettel said. "He [Hamilton] is ahead at the moment so he is the one to beat. But we have had the chances."
Vettel and Hamilton collided on Lap 1 in Monza last time out, with the German coming off worse — he had to fight back from dead last to finish fourth. Two races before that, in Hungary, Vettel's misjudgment when overtaking Valtteri Bottas in the latter phases cost valuable points, and could very easily have forced the German to retire from the race.
Lewis Hamilton's former teammate Nico Rosberg called the Monza collision '100 percent' Vettel's fault
Even on home turf at the Hockenheimring, light rainfall late in the race caught out the four-time champion from nearby Heppenheim. Leading with just a handful of laps left on slick tires and a damp track, Vettel briefly lost the back end of the car, caught it again, but put himself on an unavoidable collision course with the barriers in the process. He admitted that this was the most personally painful of his recent blunders.
"I would have loved to win in Germany, for sure," Vettel said. "But I'm not too bothered and I'm generally looking forward, and not focusing on what we all could have done differently to avoid what happened."
It all began in the rain at Hockenheim, as race-leader Vettel meekly slid into the gravel and then the barriers
Bad 2017 memories to boot
Vettel won both of the recent races where he managed to keep his nose clean, at Spa and Silverstone, and he needs another in Singapore before Hamilton's championship lead starts getting out of hand.
To make matters worse, Singapore's also the site of unhappy 2017 memories for Vettel and Scuderia fans. Last year, pole-sitter Vettel became entangled in a Turn 1 collision with Max Verstappen and his teammate Kimi Raikkonen and was out of the race by the end of the first lap.
Lewis Hamilton, starting from fifth on the grid that day one year ago, was improbably leading by the second lap and would go on to claim 25 very welcome points on his road to the championship.
Rosberg: Monza collision '100 percent' Vettel's fault
2016 drivers' champion Nico Rosberg, working as a guest commentator for Sky Sports F1 at the last race at Monza, was particularly critical of Vettel after his latest misadventure.
"You cannot beat Lewis Hamilton to a championship by making so many mistakes, that's a fact," Rosberg said. "So he's got to sort that out, otherwise it's not going to happen. Lewis is the benchmark out there. Surely he's at the peak of his career and it's all going his way."
Even in France in June, when Vettel recovered to finish third, he traded paint with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas
Silver lining is car's pure pace
The consolation for Vettel is that Ferrari could and should have hauled in a far better series of results on the European leg of the season.
Lewis Hamilton rarely misses an opportunity to lament what he sees as a clear performance gap between Mercedes and Ferrari at the moment, saying after his win at Monza: "We try to bring updates to each race, but they come back with an update and a half."
What's more, the twisty streets of Singapore have not been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes more generally. As at Monaco earlier this season, and indeed at Singapore last season, the Silver Arrows are expecting a struggle this weekend.
"I think we have a great car, I have something to play with and we have all the chances to do it in our way," Vettel said. "We need to look after ourselves and if we do that we have a good chance to do well and win races and things looks good."
So if Vettel can avoid a repeat of 2017's first-lap disaster, his chances to nibble at Hamilton's championship lead appear good. With seven races to run, time's still on his side.