Fingers of blame are pointing at a team supplier, after Ferrari's 2017 title campaign turned into a Japanese nightmare. NGK, the supplier of spark plugs to the Italian team, is located just an hour from Suzuka. And on Sunday, it was a simple failed spark plug that led to Sebastian Vettel's retirement -- and almost certainly left the world championship in the hands of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
"The world cup dream for Ferrari has been postponed until 2018," Corriere della Sera declared. Some are speculating that Ferrari's nightmare Asian tour could cost team boss Maurizio Arrivabene his job. But the Italian knows where to look for Sunday's failure. "Everybody saw what happened," said Arrivabene. "Do you see any mistake by the team?" He told Italian television Sky: "The car is good beyond the components that cost us. But we have to turn the page, keep motivated, do the analysis of what happened, and go to Austin, even if the points (deficit) to Mercedes is a lot."
German Vettel defended his team, saying reliability problems can be the price of pushing hard. If he doesn't finish at least fifth in Austin and Hamilton wins again, the championship chase will be over definitively. "I don't think you have to be a maths genius," said Vettel when asked if the title is slipping away. "But we still have a chance. It's just not in our hands as we would like it to be."
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was seen consoling Arrivabene on the Ferrari pitwall after Sunday's race. "I get on very well with Maurizio and they must all feel awful," he said. "Maybe it is the development slope of the team. They made a huge step forward from 2016 to 2017. Their car is super-fast, it just lacks reliability and that is the next step."
However, Wolff insisted it's not over until it's over, and his fellow Mercedes boss Niki Lauda agrees. "I feel sorry for Sebastian," said Lauda. "Thank God it's them and not us, but Ferrari need to look where these small mistakes come from and correct them. Sebastian has a big deficit, but I always say that as long as the title is not won or lost, it is not won or lost." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing