Mercedes, we have a problem
Hamilton admits car has 'real big' issues to rectify after losing out to Verstappen in Malaysia
Formula One world champions Mercedes have some "real big problems" to fix with their car, title favourite Lewis Hamilton said yesterday after finishing second in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The 32-year-old Briton, now 34 points clear of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and well on his way to a fourth title, started in pole position but lost out to Red Bull's 20-year-old Dutch driver Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was helped by an engine problem sidelining Vettel in qualifying and another issue preventing the German's teammate Kimi Raikkonen from taking his place on the front row of the starting grid.
But Verstappen was significantly faster once the race started while Vettel showed Ferrari's potential by going from last to fourth and beating Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas.
"There is (a fair amount of work still to do) but there's nothing we can do," Hamilton, who was also gifted a win in Singapore two weeks ago when both Ferraris collided at the start, told Sky Sports television.
"It's the way the car is. I think globally we have not got the best car and we've done an exceptional job with what we have.
"There are some real big problems that I can't really explain to you...
"But we really need to make sure we rectify them for next year's car if we're going to have any chance of fighting both these teams next year when they step up their game."
Hamilton said that the car was good at some races, and not at others, but Mercedes would do everything they could to stay ahead.
MALAYSIAN GP (TOP 5)
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:30:01.290
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +12.770s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +22.519s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +37.362s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +56.021s
DRIVERS STANDINGS (TOP 5)
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 281 pts
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 247 pts
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 222 pts
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 177 pts
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 138 pts
CONSTRUCTORS TABLE (TOP 5)
1. Mercedes 503 pts
2. Ferrari 385 pts
3. Red Bull 270 pts
4. Force India 133 pts
5. Williams 65 pts
Team boss Toto Wolff also sounded far from celebratory, despite Hamilton stretching his lead by six points with a hefty dose of luck.
"I am just very down, I must say," declared the Austrian.
"We have lost so much pace this weekend... how can a car that is so fast on many circuits lose so much with a tyre that is overheating?
"Probably if you look at the real pace today, it would have been P5 (fifth). And that is worrisome. Now let's see what happens in Suzuka.
"We have a couple of days to try and understand."
The Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka follows on this week, with four races left after that.
To compound Ferrari's woes, Vettel's car ended the day with only three wheels following an impact with Williams' Lance Stroll after the finish line.
"That's impossible," Vettel shouted over the radio. "Stroll wasn't looking where he was going!"
Meanwhile, it was a perfect birthday weekend for Verstappen, who hailed his Red Bull team for giving him an "unbelievable" car after winning the race.
Third on the grid, Verstappen was second by the end of the pit straight after Ferrari's Raikkonen retired from second spot due to engine problems before the start.
It took Verstappen only four laps to reel in pole-sitter Hamilton and, from there, the young Dutchman was never in any danger, taking a dominant victory on the day after his 20th birthday.
"I think in the beginning, straight away, the car felt good," said Verstappen, who finished the 56-lap race in 1hr 30:01.290.
"Saw Lewis was struggling a bit... of course he has more to lose in the championship, so I went for it at turn one.
"From there, I could do my own race. The car was unbelievable, if I had to speed up, I could.
"It was a very tough race and incredible to win." - WIRE SERVICES