World champion Lewis Hamilton warned Thursday that the technical problems that forced him to retire from last week’s Singapore Grand Prix could yet resurface in this year’s title run-in.
Though he still leads the Formula One championship by 41 points with six races remaining, the Briton said in Suzuka that Mercedes needed to stay wise to the dangers after an off-weekend gave Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel a glimmer of hope.
Vettel’s victory brought the German to within eight points of Hamilton’s Mercedes rival Nico Rosberg, who closed the gap slightly after finishing fourth.
“As to what happened in Singapore, it was specific to Singapore,” said Hamilton, who was left fuming after a small metal clamp fell off his car, ending his bid for an eighth victory of 2015.
“I’m not going to sit here thinking it was a fluke or anything like that. I’m sure there are going to be more situations like that — whether it’s this year, next year or the year after, but I’m hopeful we can bounce back from that and it will never happen again.”
So complete has been the dominance of Mercedes over the past two years that last Sunday’s stunning reversal of fortune took the entire F1 paddock by surprise.
“The guys have come up with a lot of solutions and a lot of reasons,” Hamilton said of his first retirement of the season. “The majority of them believe one of the reasons is that it was down to a domino effect, and they will still continue to look for answers.”
Normal service is expected to be resumed this weekend at Suzuka, which suits Mercedes’s power better than Singapore’s street circuit, where Ferrari impressed and Vettel halted a run of 23 straight qualifying wins for Mercedes.
Hamilton won something of a hollow victory last year in a race marred by a horror crash involving Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who died as a result of his injuries nine months later.
Rosberg insisted that Mercedes would strike back from their Singapore set-back in Japan.
“Singapore was our big weakness last year also,” said the German. “But we are still the same team that has won so many races — still the same car, same drivers, so the confidence is there.”
Vettel, meanwhile, refused to get carried away after showing glimpses of the immaculate driving that saw him sweep to four successive titles between 2010-13.
“It is a completely different track here,” he said. “We have to remain realistic. It was a big surprise to see Mercedes struggling, which I don’t expect to be the case here.
“If the chance is there we have to go for it,” he added. “But the favourites still have to remain Mercedes with their two cars.” – Agence France-Presse