SUZUKA, Japan — In the hope of closing the gap to Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel has vowed to go aggressive with his race strategy at the Japanese Grand Prix, but says Ferrari will stop short of employing silly tactics to try to win.
Vettel’s championship hopes hang by a thread after he dropped 50 points adrift of Hamilton at the Russian Grand Prix last weekend.
Ferrari no longer appears to have the advantage it once held over Mercedes in qualifying, meaning the team has often had to look to race strategy to find a way past Hamilton on Sundays. In Singapore an aggressive undercut strategy failed to achieve the team’s goal of leapfrogging Hamilton and he lost a position to Max Verstappen, but in Russia he was able to get ahead of Hamilton by pitting a lap earlier than the Mercedes — albeit before being passed on track.
Vettel managed to put 19 laps on the super-soft tyre in second practice at Suzuka, but his race pace did not appear to be as strong as Hamilton’s. When asked if he and Ferrari are looking to employ an aggressive strategy on Sunday, he said they would look for opportunities but avoid an all-or-nothing approach.
“I think you can always do something [unusual with strategy], the question is whether it works,” he said. “Obviously you don’t want to commit suicide, but if we attack we try to be reasonable. I think it’s a long race.
“Today I think, both of us, sliding a bit too much therefore damaging the tyres a bit more than others but I think overall it’s been OK. It’s been a clean Friday, no interruptions, no issues with the car or anything. I think we could focus on our work and now we try to try squeeze out everything that’s left in the car for tomorrow.”
After his fastest time was 0.833s shy of Hamilton in second practice, Vettel did not appear confident about securing pole position on Saturday. However, he said it would not be a disaster if he starts behind his championship rival.
“We know what the car can do and we need to focus on that and try to get everything out to put us in the best possible position. If we can grasp pole tomorrow, that’s great, but if not we need to be there just right behind and see what happens. It’s a long weekend and today is only Friday. There is a little bit to squeeze out of the car and myself, I’m sure.”