Formula One expert Mark Hughes, who currently is a Grand Prix editor for Motor Sport magazine and has had several F1-related books published, comments on the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari’s recent performance drop, which was extremely clear to everyone starting with the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix, as the Maranello team was no longer able to successfully challenge Mercedes in the fight for the world titles:
“Without the latest Ferrari blunder on Saturday Sebastian would likely never have been behind Verstappen, but the errors just compound. It was a desperate move borne of a desperate situation as the Scuderia’s title challenge collapses just as surely as it did last year. Given a straight run, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest Vettel could have fought Bottas, who had to work hard towards the end to fend off Verstappen in a damaged Red Bull.” – he said – “Last year, the last cooling embers of Vettel’s title chances lay among the carbon-fibre debris he’d left behind at Turn Two in Mexico. This time they lay on the outside Spoon corner, with barely a glow as night closed in and the wonderfully enthusiastic Japanese fans set off for home. Maurizio Arrivabene seems intent on blowing them out entirely, having erupted into an extraordinary outburst against his own team after the events of qualifying.” – Mark Hughes continued.
“Ferrari arrived with further updates around the new front wing package introduced in Sochi – and an insistence (confirmed by Charlie Whiting) that contrary to stories post-Sochi, there had been no extra sensors to monitor the team’s twin battery ers system since Monaco/Montreal time. The apparent fall-off in performance post-Monza is more to do with self-imposed restrictions to get the high-mileage engines through the remaining events – and with the effectiveness of Merc’s recent developments. Overnight Friday, after Daniil Kvyat had back-to-backed them in the Maranello simulator, Ferrari removed the rear wing and suspension introduced at Singapore. With the car halfway back to pre-Singapore form, it was much more competitive on Saturday than Friday, Vettel generally being within 0.2-0.3sec of Hamilton and vying with Bottas. But the benefit of that was thrown away with the pitlane operations.”
“Vettel remained resolute and gracious afterwards but he’d again probably shown a misjudgement under pressure. It was a pressure he shouldn’t have been under – and that’s down to the team and what it did in Q3 – but the gap to Verstappen’s inside was probably an invitation he should’ve turned down.” – Mark Hughes concluded.