There are, without doubt, multiple factors that explain why we’re now speaking of Lewis Hamilton, and not Sebastian Vettel, as a five-time world champion. But undoubtedly one of them was the inefficacy of Ferrari’s late-season upgrades this year. Ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, however, Vettel revealed that his SF71H was now back in its sweet spot as he and his team continue to gun for the one championship they're still in contention for: the 2018 constructors’ title.
At several points in the 2018 season, Ferrari introduced updates to their car which ultimately ended up hurting, rather than helping, their performance, particularly those related to the rear suspension.
The team first tried changing the rear suspension’s pick-up points for the Spanish Grand Prix in May (with the aim of exploiting the car’s relatively high-rake design philosophy) which led to increased graining on the rear tyres, while the same problem occurred in Russia when they tried the approach again, with Ferrari eventually deciding to take the upgrade off the car following Friday’s running at the proceeding Japanese Grand Prix.
Sadly for them, deleting the upgrade had a marked improvement on the SF71H’s performance, with Kimi Raikkonen managing to beat Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight to victory at the United States Grand Prix that came after Japan, while Ferrari again looked to have the superior package of the two teams in Mexico. And as they attempt to overhaul Mercedes’ 55-point advantage in the constructors’ standings with two races to go, that could prove key.
“We have got the car back to what we know and what we feel more comfortable with at the last two races,” said Vettel in the Brazil paddock, “so hopefully we can keep that up and keep competitive here and in Abu Dhabi and give [Mercedes] a very hard time. Here it is always difficult to predict because in Interlagos there is something magical about this place and things happen. We will see how it turns out.”