Hartley looking forward to Japanese race weekend ahead of Suzuka debut

Elena Summers
October 5, 2018

Sebastian Vettel defended Mercedes" decision in Sochi to order Valtteri Bottas to move over for Lewis Hamilton, insisting the tactic was a "no-brainer' in the context of the world championship.

"I'd rather be the baddie today than the idiot at the end of the year".

Hamilton will head into the final five rounds with an nearly uncatchable 50-point lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel after team-mate Valtteri Bottas was ordered out of his way at the Sochi Autodrom.

"I wasn't a genius in maths, but I was clever enough to pay attention to make it up myself", he said when asked whether he could feel the championship slipping away after Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in Russian Federation.

"Today the feeling with the auto was very good and I was able to push, but I just wasn't as fast as the others", said Vettel. Ferrari tried the undercut on Hamilton and it worked as the championship leader came out behind Vettel after his pit stop.

"How did that happen?" he asked over the radio as his team boss, Toto Wolff, punched the table in frustration while watching on from the Mercedes garage.

"I had to do this to make sure we secured this", he said, having explained that Hamilton had a blistered tyre.

"And Lewis may have a lead at the top of the standings but we know we will be pushed by the rest of the teams until the end of the season". "He remains one of my favourite drivers, and I'm convinced that Ferrari is losing a very important driver".

Verstappen's pace was insufficient to stretch the field and enabled Vettel to close in on the two Mercedes, forcing a tactical decision which saw Wolff authorise an order for Bottas to let Hamilton pass him for second on lap 26.

"It does not make sense to me", Hamilton admitted.

"It's actually quite a hard day", explained the Briton.

Hamilton then finished first with Bottas second and then the third place for Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.

Although Suzuka is expected to again suit the Red Bulls, Mercedes have won the last four races in Japan, three courtesy of Hamilton, and will be favourites to extend that run.

Lewis Hamilton stood by Mercedes' decision to manufacture his controversial win in Russian Federation that takes him ever closer to a fifth world championship.

"So how are we going to finish the race?"

Putin arrived late and sat next to former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, but was in time to see the Hamilton overtaking move on Vettel and the controversial Mercedes team tactics which decided the eventual outcome and loaded the title odds more firmly in favor of the defending champion.

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