Blinding speed v mental strength
Pirelli's Isola says little separates Ferrari's Vettel and Mercedes' Hamilton
Both have four world titles and are battling tooth and nail for their fifth.
Heading into Sunday's 11th Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, only 30 points separate championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
It is going to be an epic battle that pits the Briton's mental strength and Vettel's blinding speed, Pirelli's head of F1 and car racing, Mario Isola, told The New Paper at the Marina Bay Paddock yesterday.
"If I look at the current season I believe that Lewis is very strong when he needs to find something more, like in qualifying," he said.
"In Spa, he spun in the straight and slowed down half a lap to charge the batteries and managed to get pole position. The mental side of him in this case was very strong.
"Sebastian is very quick for the whole race and his pace is very strong. This is his advantage and sometimes he gets pole.
"But we cannot say that he is slow in qualifying because Lewis is always bit quicker. But in the race, things will be very balanced for both."
With Mercedes dominating Formula One since 2014, Hamilton goes into the race packing confidence.
I definitely think this weekend, there’s more energy within our team.Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton
They've handed him three of the last four championships, breaking that hold only when teammate Nico Rosberg claimed the title in 2016.
But the Marina Bay street circuit has not always favoured Mercedes. They have often had to overcome mechanical issues to win races.
Last year, Hamilton claimed victory in the wet only after Vettel collided with Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Ferrari teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, at the start.
Hamilton said the team had sorted out issues that have previously plagued them here and is confident of a trouble-free run this weekend.
Their secret is to adapt it to the car, instead of the car to them.Pirelli’s head of F1 and car racing, Mario Isola
usly because Ferrari and other teams have been pretty quick here," he told the media at a Mercedes event to meet fans at Suntec City yesterday.
The street circuit has been good to Vettel. He has won four times, once with Ferrari in 2015 and with Red Bull between 2011 and 2013.
Eager to make amends for last year's crash, he said the race is only his to lose.
"My biggest enemy is me," Vettel told the media scrum at the Paddock.
"This year we have a great car, and if I have something to play with, I think the chances will come our way.
“My biggest enemy is me.Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel
"Obviously, Lewis is the leader and so he is the one we have to beat to keep our title chances good."
Hamilton first won in Singapore in a McLaren in 2009 and said Mercedes are game for the strong challenge that Vettel is expected to mount on Sunday.
"Sebastian has always had a package that works well," said the 33-year-old. "We'll see this weekend. No doubt Ferrari are going to be crazy fast and to beat them is going to take everything and a lot more. And this is what we have been working on to get ahead of him."
With both gladiators primed for battle in the streets of Singapore, Isola said little separates the pair.
Added the Italian: "They are both very similar, and have the ability to hide their weak points and can extract the best from the package they are given.
"In terms of driving style we have seen in the last few years, their secret is to adapt it to the car instead of the car to them.
"This is something that top drivers are able to do."