Morning After: Vettel Already on the Back Foot

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Two wet sessions on the opening day of the United States Grand Prix weekend gave us little in the way of meaningful on-track action, but Sebastian Vettel still managed to decrease his slim championship chances on Friday in Texas.

Never going to be the most illuminating of days with all the rain about in Austin, somehow Sebastian Vettel managed to plunge his weekend even further into darkness on Friday.

Forget the championship fight, this is a weekend Vettel should be using to claw-back some much-needed respectability after a disastrous few races, but with his three-place grid drop for failing to slow sufficiently under red-flag conditions, an already difficult proposition becomes even harder.

Of course, grids aren’t decided on Fridays, nor are races won, but with Hamilton looking as imperious as ever, it’s hard not to be dismissive of Vettel’s chances.

Short of Hamilton binning it in qualifying, or Ferrari’s much-vaunted floor upgrade restoring the pace they misplaced sometime around Monza, the German will have Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen to contend with before he can even think of dealing with Hamilton. That doesn’t bode well for his chances.

In Vettel’s stead, the onus now falls on Bottas to take the fight to Hamilton – at a track where he has only beaten his teammate once in five attempts. I for one am not optimistic.

Friday Figures

  • 40%. Chance of rain for qualifying. Not great.
  • Three. Number of colours Pirelli will be using for its tyres in 2019, with only a soft, medium and hard. Still the same amount of compounds though – I’m not sure this makes it any less confusing.
  • €100. Amount fined to McLaren for Fernando Alonso speeding in the pit lane. Coincidentally, €100 is also the value of a Renault engine.

Quick Hits

  • Keep an eye on Pierre Gasly tomorrow in FP3, who should be sporting Toro Rosso’s new package of aero upgrades under more favourable conditions. Combined with Honda’s recent improvements to the PU, hopes are high it can help them pull away from Sauber, who they lead by only three points in the championship.
  • Interesting remarks from Claire Williams on Friday, who admitted her team does “not have the same room to manoeuvre” with prioritising talent over money for their second seat in 2019. In other words: pony up Esteban, or sit on the sidelines.
  • If his F1 career doesn’t work out, at least Lando Norris knows he’s always got a career as a waiter to fall back on.