Sebastian Vettel needs to step up with the pressure now firmly on

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As Sebastian Vettel drove down the home straight at Monza to finish a disappointing fourth, there was no doubt that under his helmet the German knew he had blown another opportunity in the title race.

A touch of understeer on the opening lap saw the 31-year-old clip Lewis Hamilton and fall from second place to 18th. The stewards deemed neither he nor Hamilton was at fault for the collision and it effectively ended all hope of a Ferrari win in front of their home fans.

A late P4 finish thanks to Max Verstappen’s penalty would have given him a hint of respite, but the reality is 30 points now separates him from Hamilton in the title race, and it looks like time is running out for the four-time champion with just seven races remaining.

For all the talk of a two-horse challenge this year, Vettel’s consistency and ability to lose his composure in the heat of battle has cost him dearly.

It’s his fifth race error this season, which includes his grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz in qualifying in Austria, his clash Max Verstappen in China, his lap one collision with Valtteri Bottas in France and his crash while leading the German GP in July.

With the gap widening in standings, Sunday’s result looks to be a decisive moment in the championship, especially with Ferrari failing to capitalise on the front-row advantage coming into race day.

Vettel and Hamilton are both chasing a fifth title to move level with Argentine legend Juan Manuel Fangio and go two behind Michael Schumacher.

Small errors are bound to happen for every driver, but the reality is the team and driver who makes least mistakes, and has the best strategy and best development on the engines, will prevail this season.

It’s clear Vettel has absolute faith in his car, with Ferrari upping the intensity, with pace, strong balance on the corners and a serious reliability in their engine. All this potential world championship winning car is missing is consistency from their maestro.

With seven races remaining, Vettel will not want a repeat of last year when he lost his firm grip on the crown, retiring in Singapore and Japan, and showing a lack of composure and confidence behind the wheel in Mexico.

In contrast, Hamilton would win five out of six races between Belgium and America to effectively seal his fourth world title. Now, after his triumph in Italy, the Briton looks in pole position to successfully defend his title, benefiting once again from Vettel’s blunders.

Sunday’s mistake will be frustrating when the Ferrari star reflects on the weekend’s race at his home Switzerland this week, but now he must move on, and redeem himself in Singapore in 11 days time.

His talent is unquestionable, but with the pressure firmly on, Vettel needs to step up and show why he is considered one of the greatest drivers of the era.

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Lando Norris sets sights on emulating Lewis Hamilton as he approaches F1 history

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Lando Norris will become the youngest Formula One driver in British history next season.

Lando Norris hopes to emulate four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton as he prepares to become the youngest Formula One driver in British history.

Teenager Norris, who turns 19 in November, will follow in the footsteps of compatriot Hamilton by joining McLaren as a rookie for the 2019 season.

He will team up with Spaniard Carlos Sainz to represent Britain’s most successful team after Fernando Alonso announced his retirement and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne was dropped.

“I think it’s nice to be compared to such a good driver. I have admired Lewis since I started watching Formula One because I know how a good a driver he is and I know how hard it is,” Norris said.

“And for him to have done as well as he has done is pretty impressive.

“Hopefully one day I can have as many championship wins as he has. But I think more of my focus is on next year rather than thinking what could happen.”

Lando Norris wants to emulate fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton.

Lando Norris wants to emulate fellow Briton Lewis Hamilton.

Current world champion Hamilton was aged 22 when he burst on to the scene for McLaren at the season-opening 2007 Australian Grand Prix.

Jenson Button was given his big break by Williams when he was just 20 at the turn of the century, but Norris will now eclipse them both when he takes to the grid in Melbourne on March 17.

His opportunity comes after he impressed in the McLaren car during recent practice sessions at the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.

The current Formula Two driver has no concerns about making the step up at such a tender age.

“It doesn’t matter if I was older – 20, 21, 22, whatever – I think I would still do the same job,” he said.

“I’m trying to do as good a job as I can next year, try and get back to winning ways with the team and just see how it goes.

“I just see it as an opportunity. I think McLaren are at a point where they need to have new drivers and a fresh start to do well in the future.

“It feels good that they believe in me, I think that’s very important.

Jenson Button was 20 when he made his F1 debut.

Jenson Button was 20 when he made his F1 debut.

“The top category of racing, it’s a cruel world so we’ll see how it goes.”

Norris was signed by McLaren last year after impressing in the junior categories of motor racing. He then won the prestigious Formula Three championship with two rounds to spare before he was promoted to the role of reserve driver with the British team.

The 18-year-old was notified of his promotion by McLaren CEO Zak Brown in Monza at the weekend.

“It was slightly unexpected; obviously I was pushing for it and did everything I could to try and get it. But it came a bit more sudden that I thought,” he said.

“It literally went from leaving the track to Zak saying I was going to get the drive next year.

“It’s a really cool thing to think about and, of course, I was pretty happy with the news, just knowing that everything I worked for in the past 10, 11 years has finally paid off.”

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Teenager Lando Norris to replace Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren next season

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Lando Norris has been given a dream contract to race in Formula 1 with McLaren from 2019, replacing the departing Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne.

The 18-year-old Englishman, who had taken part in practice at the last two races in Belgium and Italy, was confirmed as McLaren’s new driver just minutes after the team announced Vandoorne would be leaving.

He will be the second Briton on the 2019 grid after world champion Lewis Hamilton.

“To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. Although I’ve been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality,” Norris said.

“I’d like to thank the whole team for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me.

“I’m also extremely grateful for the commitment McLaren has already shown in my development, allowing me to build my experience in a Formula 1 car in both testing and on Fridays during the past two race weekends.

“I’ll also be working closely with McLaren at every opportunity to learn as much as possible from the drivers, engineers and mechanics to give myself the best preparation ahead of next year.”

Norris will form a new-look McLaren team alongside Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who was signed last month to succeed Fernando Alonso following the star’s decision to quit after 17 years in the sport.

Lando has been part of the McLaren young driver programme since early 2017, when he officially joined the team as test and simulator driver.

Since then, Lando has regularly conducted race simulation work for the team and also participated in Formula 1 testing – in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and Spain and Hungary in 2018.

Last year, he contested the European Formula 3 Championship, which he won at the first attempt.

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