Though Hamilton still extended his points lead to 34 with second to Max Verstappen at Sepang, Mercedes struggled to match both Ferrari and Red Bull for pace during the Malaysia weekend.
“Full credit to Red Bull and Ferrari for their performance, but we have underperformed in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur – this is what we need to concentrate on”, Wolff said, as quoted by the Daily Mail. They had brought aerodynamic upgrades to Sepang which did not improve performance and contributed to the difficulty they had with balance, set-up and grip.
Vettel can take the 50th pole of his career, the fourth driver to do so.
The Brit, who is leading the championship with a 34 point advantage, said he hopes to iron out the issues face by the team in the next few races. “I think he said when he left Ferrari that he was a Ferrari fan but today he didn’t act like one”. And the team are really pumped up to see what they can do to rectify the problems on this auto. Vettel, too, was quicker than his championship adversary for much of the race.
“I’m really happy with my performance, and what I got out of the auto”.
Max Verstappen, celebrating his 20th birthday, was third.
From the evidence available pre-race, the long run pace of Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen was closely matched, with the Red Bulls a step behind and Mercedes clearly struggling with overheating the supersoft tyres.
Also ensuring Hamilton’s vision is over his shoulder rather than straight ahead is Vettel’s previous in these situations.
“These next races are going to be crucial in terms of finding out whether we can iron out some of the creases in the auto”. The race was very hot. “So I didn’t make it very hard for him”.
Lewis Hamilton took his ninth podium of the season before coming home second in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit.
“There are five more races to go, you can see how quickly it can swing”, said Wolff.
It was nearly the stage for motor racing history with Vettel’s drive, and had the rain that was predicted turned up sooner than its actual touch-down in the early hours of race day, a yet more protracted and explosive race may have unfolded.
“We need to extract the maximum knowing the race here, the conditions and so on could be anything”.
Fortunately for the four-time world champion, it appears that, not only has he escaped censure for his part in the incident with Stroll, but may also have avoided a costly gearbox replacement penalty, despite the collision potentially wreaking internal damage at the rear of the Ferrari.
He was used in that role here in Malaysia to block Vettel at the cost of his own finishing position.
The Finn’s lap was good enough to beat the German by 0.162 seconds but did not top Vettel’s record-smashing Friday benchmark.