Mercedes have ‘edge’ after ‘bad day’

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Sebastian Vettel went into the Italian Grand Prix with a seven-point championship lead over Lewis Hamilton

Sebastian Vettel said losing the drivers’ championship lead to Lewis Hamilton was a “bad day” but remained optimistic about his title hopes.

The Ferrari driver was third in the Italian Grand Prix as race winner Hamilton took a three-point lead.

Vettel, who had led the standings all season, said: “You could say it was a bad day but the team is on a good path.

“A lot of stuff is going to improve so I am in a very positive mood despite this.”

He added: “It was a difficult weekend but there is a long way to go.”

There are seven races remaining with the next event in Singapore from 15-17 September.

Briton Hamilton, who followed up his win in Belgium seven days before with a dominant performance at Monza, said: “It’s good to have back-to-back wins. It’s been a long time Sebastian’s been leading the championship so it’s good to come back.”

Vettel took the championship lead with victory over Hamilton in the first race of the season in Australia. The two were tied on points after the positions were reversed in the second race in China, but Vettel then moved ahead into a position he had not lost until Sunday.

The German four-time world champion said he was “pretty overwhelmed” by the support he received after the race from the Italian fans, thousands of whom cheered him on the podium.

He added: “It was a difficult day, a difficult start. We just didn’t have the pace. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons but I don’t want to get too technical today.

“At the moment you can maybe say Mercedes has an edge. Saturdays, they are very strong. But we don’t need to hide.

“Things are coming, we are developing our car and what’s coming makes me quite positive. And there is also the extra element of racing and I am a fan of that so we see what we can do.”

Vettel started the race sixth on the grid but quickly overtook team-mate Kimi Raikkonen who started fifth

Hamilton, who has now won four times at Monza, played down the importance of taking the championship lead.

“It’s an incredibly exciting season, the last two races have been extremely strong for us – we have gone from strength to strength, the way we have come together this second half [of the season] so far is exceptional,” he said.

“We did the better job this weekend but it is still close and there is still a long way to go.

“He’s had a relatively comfortable lead most of the year. Is it three points? I will take that. The plan is to try to extend it.”

Hamilton said he was weary of the next race in Singapore, where he believes Ferrari will bounce back strongly on a slower track that more suits their car, a feeling based on Ferrari’s dominant one-twos in Monaco and Hungary.

“We are going to another track where the Ferraris are generally quick with the extra downforce they are able to add on,” he added.

“We will do all the diligence possible to arrive best prepared. We have learned a lot from the past.

“Ferrari are often better in hot places but I think we will be able to give them a good race.

“I am going with a positive approach expecting to fight for the win but if we can’t, we take it at face value and damage limitation.”

Hamilton is the first man to win consecutive races this season

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