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Lewis Hamilton v Sebastian Vettel: Turning points in the F1 title race

Sky Sports | Updated: 2018-10-31 06:00:28

Hamilton's Singapore masterclass, and did Ferrari downgrade their car?
Singapore was labelled as a must-win for Ferrari, and on paper it was Red Bull, the winners of the last street race in Monaco, and not Mercedes who would provide the Scuderia with their stiffest competition.

But Hamilton wouldn't be stopped.

Out of nowhere in qualifying, the reigning world champion produced a Senna-esque lap under the lights, outpacing Vettel, third behind Verstappen, by a whopping half a second. Hamilton would go on to ease to victory, with Vettel unexpectedly falling 40 points behind his rival.

But it wasn't just the defeat that was a major blow to Vettel, it was the fact that Ferrari had just wandered down a developmental cul-de-sac, one which they couldn't escape in time.

Eager to increase downforce, Ferrari, whose upgrades up until September were mighty, brought several new parts to Singapore. But despite the lack of pace there, they continued to experiment in Russia, before finally abandoning their new bits for the race in Japan.

"Ferrari went the wrong way with updates," insisted Brundle. "Such is the complexity of these cars, it took them an age to work out they had gone the wrong way."

Even Vettel acknowledged Singapore as a major turning point, explaining: "From Singapore onwards we just didn't have the pace to keep up with Mercedes for a couple of races."

Ferrari finally reverted back to their older, pace-setting version for the US GP - a damning admission of failure - and were immediately on top again. How frustrating must that have been for Seb.

Vettel spins, Hamilton wins
But even though Ferrari momentarily slipped to around 0.5s-a-lap slower than Mercedes, a title fight to the finish would not have been entirely out of the question were it not for the drastic swings in form between Vettel and Hamilton.

From Italy to Texas, Vettel was involved in three collisions in five races - one with Hamilton and one with each Red Bull - and in doing so, did he illuminate his one real weakness?

"Vettel's forgotten how to do wheel-to-wheel combat," was Brundle's verdict after he crashed into Ricciardo, just two weeks after a "crazy lunge" into Verstappen in Japan.

Hamilton, on the other hand, barely put a wheel off-line in that period, taking four successive wins in the process.

"While Ferrari were self-imploding with upgrades that didn't work and Sebastian Vettel was making mistakes, it was those four in a row that did it for Hamilton," insisted Sky F1's Ted Kravitz.

Nothing should be taken away from Hamilton. Ferrari were struggling, but Mercedes aren't the only race-winning team this season, and Hamilton isn't the only Mercedes driver. Red Bull, however, couldn't get close to Hamilton when it mattered most in Singapore, while Bottas hasn't finished ahead of the Briton since round seven of the season in Canada.

Sky F1's Paul Di Resta added: "He always takes the step that's needed in the summer break, and that's what people can't react to."

Indeed, Hamilton has outscored Vettel by 40 points since the summer break - and it's been a quite breathtaking run of form that has led him to a historic fifth crown.

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