With just under two weeks until the action resumes in Korea, F1’s title contenders have reverted to the media to step up their sparring.
Lewis Hamilton said recently that “mind games” towards the end of a championship battle is entirely “normal” in formula one.
But it is his own McLaren teammate Jenson Button who fired the first salvo, with help from most major British newspapers who faithfully reproduced his comments.
Most columnists see the Briton’s prediction of a win for Sebastian Vettel over his Red Bull teammate and championship leader Mark Webber as an obvious piling of pressure on the pair.
“Vettel has to beat Mark twice more to be on the same points,” he said. “And going into the last race with equal points, I’d say Vettel has the legs (on Webber) in qualifying,” said Button.
In the Spanish tongue, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – who like Vettel is 14 points behind Webber – is also deviating from his usual style of defensive media management to fire a few quotes in Red Bull’s direction.
“They are the favourite for all the remaining circuits and all the ones beforehand,” he is quoted by El Pais newspaper.
“But in 16 races they have only managed three doubles (one-twos), so I doubt they can do three more,” added the Spaniard.
Alonso, a two-time world champion already, is therefore stacking the odds in his favour.
“The most important thing is that the points situation has been coming my way. Now it has to continue.
“There are still three races to go and I know I can do it,” he said.
Italy’s La Stampa quotes him as adding: “Three more podiums should be enough.”
The Ferrari-loving Italian press at large is also in on the action, sensing a tension at Red Bull and noticing that Webber was only present for Vettel’s team victory photo in the form of a cardboard cut-out.
Corriere dello Sport said their apparent reluctance to fight one another at the head of the Suzuka field revealed a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ had been reached.
Spain’s EFE news agency quotes boss Stefano Domenicali as talking up Ferrari’s title chances.
“If we do a better job than them in qualifying, we can beat them on race pace. We knew Suzuka was a difficult circuit for us so it was good to see the result,” he insisted.
“Now the world championship is very, very open. We have three races left in which anything is possible,” added the Italian.
© RIF | GMM