London — Lewis Hamilton is worried about the pace of rival Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari despite extending his championship lead in Malaysia.
Hamilton is 34 points ahead of the German after finishing second behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while Vettel fought from the back to come fourth.
Asked if Ferrari’s pace concerned him, Mercedes driver Hamilton said: “Yeah, definitely. We have some work to do.”
He could be helped by a grid penalty for Vettel in Japan next weekend.
Vettel was involved in a bizarre crash with Williams driver Lance Stroll on the slowing down lap, which smashed his left-rear suspension, and will get a five-place grid penalty in Suzuka if the gearbox needs changing.
Ferrari said they did not yet know the extent of the damage to the gearbox.
A spokesman said that if only the gearbox casing was damaged, the team could replace that without a penalty, but that would not be the case if the unit also needed internals.
Mercedes experimented with different aerodynamics packages during the Malaysian Grand Prix — Hamilton running the older spec with Bottas using an upgraded version
Hamilton gained six points on Vettel in Malaysia and said the result was “pretty good considering the pace deficit we had in the race”.
Mercedes struggled for speed in Malaysia, but Hamilton’s title hopes were aided by reliability problems for Ferrari.
An engine problem in qualifying left Vettel at the back of the grid and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was due to start second behind Hamilton, did not make the start, also hit by engine failure.
Hamilton took pole against the run of play and his car was slower than the Red Bull and Ferrari in the race.
“We still have problems with this car and it was magnified here,” Hamilton said.
“I’m hoping it’s not like this at the next few races. It feels like it is getting worse as the season goes on but it has been great in other races. I have no idea where it will be an issue and where it will be fine. Hopefully it won’t be so bad.”
He added that there was “nothing we can do about the car”.
“People have been talking all year that we have the best car,” he said.
“It is a fact that some races the car has worked out to be better, but overall, globally, we have not got the best car and we have done an exceptional job with what we have.”
— BBC Sport