September 18, 2017 / 10:14 AM / 10 months ago

Mercedes must not drop the ball now, warns Wolff

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Mercedes will see Ferrari’s Singapore self-destruction as a warning, even as they revel in Lewis Hamilton’s sudden 28-point lead, that anything can happen in Formula One and nothing can be taken for granted.

Formula One F1 - Singapore Grand Prix 2017 - Singapore - September 17, 2017 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race on the podium with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

Hamilton’s seventh win of the season fell into the Mercedes driver’s lap after title rival Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen collided with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the start.

With six races remaining, and seven wins in 14 now under his belt, the Briton is the clear favorite to take a fourth title this year.

But he also knows, as much as Vettel, how fickle the championship can be.

Formula One F1 - Singapore Grand Prix 2017 - Singapore - September 17, 2017 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race on the podium REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

Last year Hamilton was leading from pole in Malaysia - the race after Singapore - when his car’s engine expired.

The triple champion went on to win four of the last five races but the damage was done and now-retired German team mate Nico Rosberg won the championship by five points.

“We mustn’t drop the ball,” team boss Toto Wolff told reporters on Sunday.

“We just need to continue and get on with the job,” added the Austrian. “There’s lots of time for cheering when we’ve actually done it.”

That said, even Hamilton found it hard to come to terms with the dramatic twist that turned damage limitation — after he qualified fifth with Vettel on pole — into something of a miracle.

Formula One - F1 - Italian Grand Prix 2017 - Monza, Italy - September 1, 2017 Mercedes' Executive Director Toto Wolff during practice REUTERS/Max Rossi

“I don’t know why but it’s not sinking in just yet,” he said of the 60th win of his Formula One career. “And also the gap, it’s kind of hard to believe.

“I definitely went into today thinking it was about damage limitation, it was trying to minimize the loss somehow. So, to come out the complete other direction, for sure it’s a shock.”

Singapore offered Vettel the best chance of striking a blow against Hamilton and the four times champion knows Mercedes are unlikely to be so far off the pace at upcoming circuits.

The German may come to look back on Singapore as the defining moment of a campaign that has already had several flashpoints.

With six races remaining, Hamilton could before long find himself in a position where he doesn’t need to win another race this season.

“Championship-wise it’s a big step forward,” said Wolff, who expressed some sympathy for Ferrari’s plight.

“You can kind of feel for Ferrari. I’ve been in the situation of losing both cars, and you can relate how awful that feels for them. But I guess we’re not here to take prisoners.”

Editing by Alan Baldwin

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