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Vettel blames Hamilton errors for holding him up

June 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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World championship leader Sebastian Vettel blamed ‘mistakes’ by Lewis Hamilton for hampering his progress as his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen topped the times in Friday’s second practice for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The four-time world champion German said he did not blame the Mercedes driver, but said it was “annoying” that his rhythm was broken as the pair prepared for their seventh contest in an increasingly-competitive season.

“I think towards the end I understood what we need, what the car needs, what we’re planning to do, so it should be a better day tomorrow,” he told reporters after the session.

“All in all it’s been a tricky session, quite slippery on the track.

“And it was a bit annoying. I was stuck behind him. I wanted to get a good feel to the car so I’d leave a gap.

“Then he would do a mistake, so it’s unfortunate, but it was mistakes. It was breaking a bit the rhythm, but we understood.”

“The problem was when you try to do consecutive laps, with traffic, it’s not ideal. I’m pretty sure he didn’t do them on purpose — he was trying to do the same and get a feeling for the car.

“But it was slippery today and easy to do mistakes. I think I spun twice, but I think it will get better during the weekend. The circuit usually improves a lot here.”

Vettel wound up third fastest behind Raikkonen and Hamilton as Ferrari and Mercedes traded fastest laps in a closely-fought day’s action at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The Finn, who finished a disappointed and controversial second in Ferrari’s one-two triumph at last month’s Monaco Grand Prix, clocked a best lap in one minute and 12,935 seconds to outpace the Briton, who was fastest in the morning’s opening session, by 0.215 seconds.

Hamilton, who trails Vettel by 25 points in the drivers championship after a disappointing Monaco Grand Prix where Ferrari scored a resounding one-two triumph, was encouraged by Mercedes’ form.

“It’s been a pretty good first day for the team,” he said. “The Ferraris are looking fast here and, as the times show, it’s super close at the top right now.

“I feel like we are still just a little bit behind the red cars at this early stage of the weekend, but we’ll be pushing as hard as we can to close the gap ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

“After a tough weekend in Monaco, the main thing is that our car is already feeling a lot better around Montreal. It should be game on for the rest of the weekend.”

Four-time champion German Vettel was third fastest in the second Ferrari ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was fourth in the second Mercedes.

The top four were separated by only 0.375 seconds at the end of a closely-contested session.

Dutchman Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull, before he pulled up in the closing stages with gearbox problems, ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams and two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who posted an excellent late lap for McLaren Honda to go seventh.

Verstappen said he remained optimistic despite his problems.

“I don’t know what it was exactly,” he said. “We need to investigate, but before that it was quite a positive session — I thought we were quite close in the top four on this track,which is normally not my favourite.

“We can be quite pleased with that. We are racing for fifth, but it has been like this all season so it doesn’t really change.

“We are not fighting for victories, but fifth is like a victory for us I guess so you just try to make the best of it.”

Frenchman Esteban Ocon and his Force India team-mate Mexican Sergio Perez were eighth and 10 th either side of Russian Daniil Kvyat in his Toro Rosso.

Vettel looks to end Ferrari’s 16-year Monaco wait

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Championship leader Sebastian Vettel will this weekend seek to increase his advantage and inflict a demoralising blow to his rivals by securing Ferrari’s first win at the Monaco Grand Prix since 2001.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

The four-time champion leads Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes by six points after five of this season’s 20 races, but heads into the classic 78-lap contest on the unforgiving streets of the Mediterranean principality knowing a victory could prove decisive in their tight title fight.

He knows also that there is some concern at Mercedes that their car, with a much longer wheel-base, could struggle to match Ferrari’s agility on the famous tight and twisting track where Hamilton, who loves the challenge, won last year.

The three-time champion will be seeking his third Monaco win after triumphing also in 2008 while Vettel, who won for Red Bull in 2011, is chasing his second win and, learning of Mercedes’ worries, will fancy his chances.

“At the moment, Ferrari has certain advantages there,” said Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.

“We will have our problems with our longest wheel-base through the tight corners. It will be even worse than in Singapore.”

Despite winning every race in Monte Carlo since 2013, Mercedes appear to be truly afraid that they will start with a disadvantage.

Valtteri Bottas, who has replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg as Hamilton’s team-mate, warned: “A car with the longest wheelbase on a track with so many slow corners — we could be slower than them.”

Daniel Ricciardo, who lost a near-certain victory last year due to a Red Bull tactical bungle, will also be a threat to the leaders in what is expected to be an intriguing scrap in qualifying and the race.

“Last year was disappointing for me as I felt a win was on the cards,” said Ricciardo.

“But I am old enough and mature enough now to put that behind me and look forward and take back what I lost last year.”

Hamilton, however, will be certain to mount a fierce challenge for victory after winning in Spain two weeks ago and knows that he cannot afford to allow Vettel any chance to build up momentum.

The race will be billed as the 64th running of the Monaco Grand Prix as part of the world championship — though it is the 75th race since 1929 — and will see back-from-retirement former winner Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, replacing two-time champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren.

Alonso will instead be at the Indianapolis 500 while Button, making his 306th F1 start, hopes Honda’s package of upgrades can enable him to make an impressive return for Monaco’s historically most successful team.

Hamilton resists Vettel to claim Spanish GP pole

May 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton secured pole position for Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix for Mercedes in a closely-contested qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton

The three-time champion Briton resisted a powerful late challenge in the final seconds of Q3 from championship-leading four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.

“It was very close, but well done to Lewis,” said Vettel. “And a big thank-you to my team. I’m afraid it was my lock-up at the end of the lap that made the difference.

“It was a really good lap up to the final chicane.”

A beaming Hamilton, who has bounced back to his best form after a puzzling loss of pace in Russia, said his first lap had been “very, very good, but the last lap was only so-so… But I am super proud that we are back up there.”

Hamilton clocked a best lap of one minute and 19.149 seconds to stay ahead of Vettel, who clocked 1:19.200, by the narrowest of margins after the German had required a rapid engine change shortly before the session began.

It was the 64th pole of Hamilton’s career, lifting him to within one of his childhood hero Brazilian Ayrton Senna, on 65, and four from German Michael Schumacher on 68.

Finns Valtteri Bottas, in the second Mercedes, who also had an engine change on Saturday morning, and Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, were third and fourth fastest.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who won last year’s race on debut with Red Bull, was fifth ahead of his team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo with local hero Fernando Alonso grabbing a very popular seventh against the odds for McLaren-Honda.

On a perfect, if windy, spring day, the session began with a track temperature of 44 degrees Celsius and Vettel hurrying to join the fray after Ferrari had changed his engine following a water leak problem discovered in final practice.

In his third new power unit of the four permitted this year, Vettel used team radio to thank his mechanics for their efforts before being told “stop the car” on his installation lap.

“Are you sure?” he responded, wisely. After making a ‘driver default’ change in the car, Vettel was soon back up to speed. “Seems better now,” he said, as he clocked an early fastest lap in 1:20.939.

Hamilton trimmed four-tenths off that to set the Q1 pace, with Bottas third ahead of Raikkonen, who soon improved to second.

As Q2 began, Mercedes reminded Hamilton “this is our race start set” of tyres, a message not heeded by Bottas who locked up at Turn One and flat-spotted his tyres, requiring a second hot lap.

Hamilton ran wide at Turn Five, but was fastest in Q2 by a narrow margin –- less than a tenth — ahead of Vettel and Bottas, but the lap that lifted the crowd came from Alonso, who reached the top ten shootout for the first time this year, 24 hours after yet another engine failure on Friday.

For the Spaniard, who is heading to the Indianapolis 500 instead of Monaco later this month, it was a personal triumph four years after his last victory, with Ferrari in Spain, in 2013.

Hamilton ‘real struggle’ as Ferrari end Mercedes run

April 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton admitted that he and Mercedes have a battle on their hands and will have to find a solution to their problems in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.

Formula One - Australia Grand Prix - Melbourne, Australia - 20/03/16 - Ferrari F1 driver Sebastian Vettel drives during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. REUTERS/JASON REED

 

The three-time world champion qualified down in fourth behind pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Saturday’s qualifying session, with his own Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas lining up third.

“I just wasn’t quick enough today,” said Hamilton.

“I think we have to go back to the drawing board and try and figure out why. Tomorrow it’s still all to play for. I’m still up there in the mix.”

It was Ferrari’s first front row lock out since 2008 and ended champions Mercedes run of 18 pole positions.

Hamilton determined to avoid Sochi ‘screw-up’

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will arrive in Sochi ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix determined not to lose any more ground in his tightly-contested battle with Sebastian Vettel in this year’s title race.

Hamilton

The three-time world champion knows that even the smallest of errors, by driver or team, can decide the outcome after revealing that he suffered from a minor issue in Bahrain that may have cost him pole in qualifying.

The Briton said his Mercedes car had a slight problem with the engagement of its Drag Reduction System (DRS) during the decisive session and this may have handed his team-mate Valtteri Bottas his maiden pole position.

“It’s painful,” said Hamilton, talking about his realisation that just a fraction of a second may have been so costly in that race.

“I lost two tenths from Turn 10 to 11 when the DRS didn’t engage in qualifying and I lost half a tenth out of the last corner. So, I should easily have been on pole.”

Hamilton’s pain was moderated by the knowledge that four-time champion Vettel was faster in the race in his Ferrari, even though his advantage was only marginal as the Englishman stormed after him in the closing laps.

“I lost position at the start, solely my fault,” added Hamilton.

“Then you’ve got the time lost in the pit-lane and you practice and practice and practice and practice and practice — and you only have 20 opportunities this year.

“So when you screw up, man, it’s painful. There’s no other way of saying it. When you guys mess up in your job, I don’t know how you feel about it, but particularly when it has big consequences, potentially, I’m sure you feel gutted as well.

“And so I try to handle it the best way I can, but it eats you up a little bit inside and you’ve just got to end up trying to cope and move forward.”

Hamilton’s DRS failed to engage on the back straight in Bahrain and, he hopes, he can avoid a similar weekend of frustration back at the Sochi Autodrome, a part-street circuit built around the Olympic Park that hosted the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, by the Black Sea.

History suggests he should start the race as favourite as Mercedes won all three of the previous contests in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Hamilton triumphing in the first two and retired champion German Nico Rosberg last year.

The Mercedes team also enjoyed one-two finishes in 2014 and 2016 while Vettel can point to one podium finish with Ferrari, taking second place in 2015.

It is expected to be a very different contest this time with Ferrari a greater threat in race trim even if Mercedes can maintain their run of three pole positions at the circuit.

After three rounds this year, Vettel and Ferrari have won twice and Hamilton and Mercedes once, an outcome that has put Vettel on 68 points ahead of Hamilton on 61 ahead of the Russian race.

A rueful Hamilton added: “I don’t remember thinking it was necessarily my fault we did not win in Australia, not in the sense that I ran out of tyres and had to pit…

“But in Bahrain there were certain things and if they were perfect, I would have been in a far better position to fight for the win…. And I didn’t put myself in that position.

“It’s only a small percentage, which is what racing should be all about, but we want to operate at the top end.”

Vettel triumphs in Bahrain as Hamilton pays penalty

April 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel moved clear at the top of the world championship on Sunday when he claimed a well-judged victory for Ferrari in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Sebestian Vettel

The 29-year-old four-time champion came home seven seconds ahead of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who made a late charge for victory after collecting a five-seconds penalty for a pit-lane misdemeanour.

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third, after starting from his maiden pole position, ahead of compatriot Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and fifth-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

It was Vettel’s third win in Bahrain and the 44th of his career.

‘Brave warrior’ Hamilton wins Formula One Chinese GP

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton boldly christened himself “brave warrior” after winning the Chinese Grand Prix but the three-time world champion will have more than just title rival Sebastian Vettel to contend with this week in Bahrain.

Lewis Hamilton

As Hamilton celebrated a third Shanghai victory in four years with his Mercedes team, he unveiled a new tattoo on the left side of his ribcage bearing the Chinese characters “Brave Warrior” and “Love”.

But the Briton’s thunder had already been stolen by a jaw-dropping drive from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished third behind Ferrari’s Vettel after starting near the back of the grid.

The 19-year-old Dutchman began in 16th after an engine misfire in qualifying and tore past nine cars on the first lap alone, suggesting fears that the sport’s new rules had made overtaking harder were premature.

Both Hamilton and Vettel, who himself produced two breath-taking passes, will be casting nervous looks in their rear-view mirrors at Verstappen.

“He is right up there with all the best drivers,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who noted that Verstappen’s odds of reaching the podium after qualifying stood at 33-1.

“If it had not been insider trading, I’d have had a flutter. Max has a sixth sense in the wet. He is fearless. He explores all the boundaries of the track to find where the grip is.”

Verstappen’s aggressive approach has quickly made him a fan favourite and he has been compared with Formula One great Ayrton Senna, particularly after a seat-of-the-pants drive in Brazil last year when he stormed to third in pouring rain.

By the same token, he has ruffled feathers since making his F1 debut two years ago at just 17 with Ferrari’s Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen both letting rip.

But Hamilton, who recognises a kindred spirit in Verstappen, retorted: “This young dude has been a real breath of fresh air for everyone.”

Wider cars and fatter tyres were supposed to make overtaking a dying art, but Verstappen and Vettel went some way to exploding that myth in China.

On a track still slick after morning drizzle, Verstappen pulled off an audacious piece of skill to pass Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, braking late to lunge inside on turn six.

Equally as impressive were Vettel’s pass on Raikkonen after early frustration, and his wheel-to-wheel clash in overtaking Ricciardo, which recalled the days before one team dominated the sport.

Mercedes have enjoyed a stranglehold over Formula One for the past three years, the German team winning all but two races in 2016.

Before that, Vettel won four successive titles with Red Bull on a streak so monotonous he was repeatedly booed on the podium.

But Formula One suddenly has a title race with Vettel and Hamilton heading to Bahrain tied on 43 points after the German’s stunning victory in the season opener in Australia.

Verstappen is placed third on 25, with Valtteri Bottas on 23 for Mercedes, Raikkonen on 22 and Ricciardo 12, adding spice to this week’s dust-up in the desert.

Ex-Formula One star Webber backs Hamilton over Vettel

April 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton, Formula One’s racing rock star who is a master of all conditions, has the edge over championship-leader Sebastian Vettel and remains favourite for this year’s title, according to former star Mark Webber.

Hamilton

Australian Webber, now 40, knows Vettel as a racer and a team-mate after their strained but glorious years together at Red Bull.

He believes the battle of the two multiple champions will be the centre-piece of the 2017 season as Ferrari and Mercedes slug it out in a development war with the ‘fatter and faster’ cars that made a record-smashing debut in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“The CVs are getting similar aren’t they? That can re-fire the candle for Seb,” Webber told AFP.

“And don’t forget, Lewis can sometimes be a bit off it, not feeling quite right on a Friday.

“But ultimately, I think Lewis has more outright skill than Sebastian. He’s so good, so very, very good, in the rain and in all conditions.

“But if Seb gets a sniff of success, he can be frightening. I know about that! But for outright skill, it’s Lewis -– and Mercedes are the stable team, the team to beat.”

A veteran of 215 Grands Prix with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull, Webber was a team-mate of Vettel during the German’s four-year pomp as champion and close rival to the younger pre-Mercedes Hamilton.

This weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, where Hamilton seeks his first win of the season and his fifth at Shanghai despite the poor weather conditions, is expected to give a much more accurate guide to the year ahead than the race in Melbourne where, after dominating qualifying, Hamilton was held up in traffic and finished second.

Webber admitted it was Hamilton’s record-breaking charge to pole position that left the most serious impression.

“What we have seen is a supremely confident Lewis who, at 32, has been exceptional,” he said. “Remember, he hadn’t been there for 12 months and he went straight out there and he was just… exceptional!

“He was so confident. I think he looked like he was going to crash the car. He was that quick and that confident. He was on the edge straightaway.”

He was not, he said, surprised to see Vettel end Ferrari’s 18-month winless drought in Melbourne.

“I think Ferrari are going to win races, but a season? I think they’ve got Sebastian engaged again and that is crucial.

“The ‘marriage’ is back on, but if they are not winning consistently in the next eight months he will be looking over the fence.”

Webber, now working as an ambassador for Rolex amid other commitments, believes also that Vettel’s new life as a family man may have an effect on the battle with the Englishman.

“Sebastian, he is a very human guy,” he said. “He’s very private. We all love our families, of course — and I think he’s always had the big picture in his mind.

“Having said that, deep down, he is still a very tough competitor and he loves winning.”

Mercedes on red alert as Wolff backs Hamilton

April 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has backed Lewis Hamilton to exact swift revenge at Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after a chastening defeat in Formula One’s season opener in Australia.

Formula One

 

Sebastian Vettel’s comprehensive victory for Ferrari has put Mercedes on red alert ahead of the Shanghai race weekend but Wolff insists Hamilton has the steel to strike right back after finishing second in Melbourne.

“Lewis is the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last four years — both on and off the track,” said the Austrian. “He’s become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne.

You need to be careful to manage your own expectations.

If you think you are going to cruise to victory in the future, based on a track record of success, you’ll be proven wrong very quickly. You need to put the finger in the wound, identify your weaknesses and then respond.”

Ferrari’s Vettel masters Hamilton to win Australian GP

March 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Sebastian Vettel out-manoeuvred Lewis Hamilton and the world champion Mercedes team with a stunning victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.

Vettel

Vettel won by almost 10 seconds from Hamilton and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a commanding victory of tactics and superior speed around the Albert Park street circuit.

Ferrari hadn’t won in Melbourne since Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 victory and it was Vettel’s second triumph in Australia after winning the 2011 race with Red Bull.

It was also a major fillip for the fledgling season and the new generation of quicker cars after Ferrari’s superior pre-season test times as they chase their first world constructors’ title since 2008.

The victory was the German four-time world champion’s fourth for Ferrari and his first since Singapore in 2015 and his 43rd career win.

“A title challenge is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon at the start we have made here today,” Vettel said.

“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheel spin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight.

“There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.”

Ferrari got the better of Mercedes in the sole round of tyre changes which ultimately decided the race.

Hamilton’s early stop meant he rejoined behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen which allowed Vettel to open up a decisive gap at the head of the field.

“A big congratulations to Ferrari and Sebastian,” Hamilton said.

“In the race, I struggled with the tyres. I had to stop very early and I got stuck behind one of the Red Bulls, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with Verstappen fifth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the Williams.

Australia’s big hope Daniel Ricciardo had a heartbreaking day with gear box problems ending his race on the 29th lap after he was forced to start from pit lane when his Red Bull car broke down on the warm-up lap.

Hamilton, who went into the race on his fourth successive pole in Melbourne, got away safely and avoided trouble into the notorious right hander out of home straight.

But Kevin Magnussen in a Haas clipped the kerb and slid into the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson on the first turn. Both cars continued on in the race.

Hamilton grabbed a 1.5sec gap on Vettel after nine laps ahead of Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen.

Hamilton made his first pit stop after lap 17 to change to soft tyres on his Mercedes to hand the lead over to Vettel and rejoined the race in fifth spot behind Verstappen.

“Race critical that you pass Verstappen,” Hamilton was told over the team radio to which he testily responded “how do you expect me to do that right now?” as his pace slowed behind the Red Bull.

Vettel came into the pits to change tyres and rejoined the race just squeezing in ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton.

When Verstappen came into the pits Vettel had opened a six-second lead over Hamilton at mid-distance.

Ricciardo’s traumatic race came to a sorry end on the 29th lap with his Red Bull coming to a stop with lingering gearbox problems.

“Sorry mate – the car’s done,” the Red Bull team told the disconsolate Ricciardo over the radio.

Vettel extended his lead over Hamilton to over nine seconds after 41 laps with the triple world champion seemingly unable to reel him in.

Bottas was pressuring Hamilton and was only just over two seconds behind in third place with Raikkonen struggling in fourth place ahead of Verstappen.

Mercedes had no answer to the pace of Vettel, who posted a new fastest lap of 1:26.638 in the final laps of the race.

Lewis Hamilton ‘in league of his own’ after F1 practice blitz

March 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton was hailed as being “in a league of his own” on Friday as he burned off his rivals in the year’s opening practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The triple world champion bossed the field and held a half-second gap over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and his new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the afternoon session.

Britain’s Hamilton followed up his field-leading fastest lap of 1 minute, 24.220 secs in the morning run with a blistering 1:23.620 in the late afternoon.

It was around one-tenth of a second off Vettel’s circuit record of 1:23.529, posted for Red Bull in qualifying ahead of his 2011 race victory.

“Hamilton is in a league of his own at the moment,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said.

“His one-lap pace was really good and he took the ultrasofts for 17 laps and was stable. I’m happy.”

Ferrari were expected to press Hamilton and the Mercedes team after superior times in pre-season testing, but on the evidence of the opening two sessions Hamilton is again the driver to beat in Sunday’s season-opener.

“I’m super-happy to be back in the car, particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 percent perfect,” Hamilton said.

“We’ve shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tyres performed really well today too.

“I’ll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.”

Hamilton’s time was more than three seconds faster than his best lap in last year’s corresponding free practice in Melbourne.

Finland’s Bottas slotted smoothly into the Mercedes team environment with a best lap of 1:24.176.

“I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It’ll be a busy evening for us looking through all the data to see where we can improve, but it’s a reasonable start,” Bottas said.

Ferrari improved markedly on their opening practice, with Vettel unleashing the second best lap time in FP2 with 1:24.167 while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was fourth with 1:24.525.

“We (were) very happy at testing — times looked good, but here is where it matters,” Vettel said.

“The car hasn’t changed much and it’s good to be back but we can still improve.”

The Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were over a second behind Hamilton and half-a-second off Vettel’s Ferrari.

“We can still get more out of it. This morning was promising but we tried a few things this afternoon and they didn’t work as much as we’d like,” said Ricciardo, bidding to become the race’s first Aussie winner in 37 years.

“Mercedes sure are quick but it’s more Lewis than Valtteri. I think we can be up there. Pole (position) may be a stretch but we’re in that next little group.”

Verstappen missed out on the later long runs after damaging his car’s floor when running over the gravel on the exit of turn 10.

“I had a bit of understeer, so went off the track and damaged the floor,” Verstappen said. “We tried to find a better balance and we are just a bit too slow. We are where I expected us to be.”

The second session was stopped after a big crash for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, who lost the rear of his car on the last corner and spun into the barriers.

“I’m fine,” Palmer told his team over the radio. The shunt damaged the car’s rear suspension, while the rear wing was detached.

Palmer missed the remainder of the session, in a blow to his preparations for the weekend race.

Brazilian Felipe Massa stopped his Williams car at Turn 11 after reporting he could not engage gears, and walked back to the team garage.

The troubled McLaren team had no on-track breakdowns on the opening day with Fernando Alonso finishing in a respectable 12th place.

Hamilton looks for fast start to new season

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will look to put his stamp on the new Formula One season at this week’s Australian Grand Prix, as he seeks to regain the world title following the shock retirement of reigning champion Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton

Ten years after his F1 debut at Albert Park, Hamilton arrives at the downtown circuit as the leading light of a sport now under new management and featuring wider and faster cars.

Hamilton, 32, was beaten to last year’s title by Mercedes team-mate Rosberg, who quit the sport five days later citing the intense pressures of competing.

This year, Hamilton will be face renewed competition from Ferrari and Red Bull, who are expected to close the gap on dominant Mercedes, as well his new team-mate Valtteri Bottas of Finland.

Hamilton is revelling in the new generation of quicker cars, which coincides with American group Liberty Media’s takeover and the exit of long-time ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

“I’m finding the car is much more physical to drive than in the past,” said Hamilton, who is seeking his fourth world title after victories in 2008, 2014 and 2015.

“It’s so much faster in the corners. The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher. I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never really had them before.”

An overhaul of technical regulations has ushered in wider cars with broader tyres, which are expected to be noisier and provide faster racing, but also put greater physical demands on the drivers.

“Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent — just like Formula One cars should be,” said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.

“The target with these new regulations was to make this generation of F1 cars the quickest in the history of the sport.

“And looking at the results from testing, we’re well on the way to achieving that. It’s something that’s never been done before and that’s a radical change.”

Hamilton and Rosberg had a fractious relationship in the Mercedes garage, but Wolff said the Briton and Bottas were “in a great place”.

“They have a respectful and friendly relationship from what we’ve seen in our team briefings so far,” he added.

Bottas is yet to win a race but he is confident of improving on his best finish of fifth around the Melbourne circuit, for his former team Williams in 2014.

“It’s a big challenge and I’ll definitely need to prove myself to a lot of people and my team that I deserve the place,” Bottas said.

“But I see it very positively. It’s a great opportunity for my career to fight for the wins and even for the championship.”

While the Silver Arrows have dominated F1, winning the drivers and constructors titles over the last three years, pre-season testing pointed to other teams pushing hard.

Ferrari topped the timesheets at testing in Barcelona, with Kimi Raikkonen fastest ahead of team-mate Sebastien Vettel.

Ferrari last won at Albert Park in 2007 through Raikkonen, who went on to win the championship that year — the last time the Italian team lifted the drivers title.

“It’s impossible to predict anything,” said Ferrari’s Vettel, a four-time champion with Red Bull from 2010-2013.

“Even the tests in Barcelona only give a basic idea where you stand.

“It is only in the first race that you will know how well you and the others have worked over the winter. We will only get real clarity after three or four races.”

Daniel Ricciardo, attempting to become the first Australian F1 world champion since Alan Jones in 1980, believes Red Bull can loosen Mercedes’ grip on the titles.

But Ricciardo, who finished third behind Rosberg and Hamilton in last year’s standings, said it would be tough to win in Melbourne.

“Can we be the quickest? I think we can. Will it be by Melbourne? Probably not,” he said. “We haven’t quite been the fastest in testing so I would say we’re not the quickest as we stand here today.”

But he added that Mercedes would have a “target on them”.

“If we can get close to them and get a few wins and somehow end up in a championship fight towards the end of the season then that’s what I want.”

Ferrari’s Raikkonen makes F1 splash as Hamilton sits tight

March 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen posted the fastest time on a track artificially soaked to test wet conditions as Lewis Hamilton’s first week of testing fizzled to a premature end on Thursday.

Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s best time of 1min 20.872 came late in the day in Barcelona as the track dried out after trucks dumped water on the surface overnight and again during the lunch break.

The Finn was also fastest on Tuesday and is hopeful Ferrari’s pre-season pace will continue come race time later this month — unlike in 2016 when they failed to win a Grand Prix.

“I’ve got the feeling that we learned some lessons from last year and at the moment we can’t complain,” said Raikkonen.

Three-time world champion Hamilton didn’t even get out of the Mercedes garage as an electrical fault with his car prevented him from running as scheduled during the morning.

“Shame not to drive but it’s been a great few days. The guys have done an awesome job. Can’t wait to be back in the car next week,” Hamilton tweeted.

New Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas did manage to run in the afternoon, but was way down the timesheets in eighth fastest for his 68 laps.

However, Bottas’s time of 1min 19.705sec on Wednesday remained the fastest for the opening week of testing.

“Unfortunately the day was a little bit shorter than we were hoping for, but overall it has been a very good four days for us,” said the Finn, who has stepped in after world champion Nico Rosberg abruptly retired from the sport.

“As a team we really made the most out of this week. We’ve done a lot of mileage and I learned a lot.”

In a recurring theme over the first few days of pre-season testing, Red Bull were the best of the rest behind Ferrari and Mercedes as Dutch wonder kid Max Verstappen was second fastest.

“I think Mercedes might still have an advantage on us in terms of power at the beginning of the season but we’ll be catching up,” warned Verstappen.

British driver Jolyon Palmer was third quickest for Renault.

The beleaguered McLaren team had a more positive day in terms of mileage as Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne completed 67 laps, but F1’s fallen giants remain well off the pace.

Williams also called an early end to their first test after damage suffered to the FW40 in rookie Lance Stroll’s crash on Wednesday.

“A second chassis will be prepared at track this afternoon, as originally planned, with the team aiming to be back on track for the second test next week,” Williams said in a statement.

The second and final four-day test before the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia on March 26 also takes place in Barcelona, from March 7 to 10.

Raikkonen fastest as Hamilton battles physical toll

March 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen showed promising signs for Ferrari by outpacing a Lewis Hamilton bruised by Formula One’s more powerful cars for the 2017 season in Tuesday’s second day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Raikkonen

The greater speed afforded by radical rules changes showed when Raikkonen posted a best time of 1min 20.960sec for a lap at the Circuit de Catalunya circuit since 2013.

Even more encouragingly for Ferrari, Raikkonen’s time came on a slower soft tyre compound to the supersofts Hamilton used in posting his best effort of 1min 20.983sec.

However, Mercedes, who have won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ world championships, remained out in front when it came to mileage.

Hamilton managed 68 laps in the morning session before handing over the reins of the Mercedes W08 to new teammate Valtteri Bottas.

“I’m finding the car is much more physical to drive than in the past. It’s so much faster in the corners,” said Hamilton.

“The force you feel on your body and on your neck is much higher. I’ve got bruises and bumps where I’ve never really had them before.

“Physically I feel fine, though, as it’s only half a day of testing. I’ve trained enough over the winter to be ready for more.”

Bottas didn’t trouble the top of the timesheets with only the seventh fastest lap, but did log an impressive 102 laps in just a few hours.

The former Williams driver even shrugged off a minor spin to complete a full race simulation.

“I had a small off but it wasn’t anything serious,” said Bottas.

“I lost the rear end with a gust of tail wind that was quite sudden. This is testing – you need to find the limits.”

That sort of reliability is something the beleaguered McLaren-Honda team can only dream of as they suffered another day dogged by reliability problems.

Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne managed just 40 laps to add to the limited 29 former world champion Fernando Alonso completed on Monday.

Vandoorne also had to have the power unit completely replaced on his MCL32.

Only Williams suffered a more disappointing day as Canadian Lance Stroll registered just 12 laps before a spin into the gravel brought a premature end to his day before lunch.

Dutch wonder kid Max Verstappen had a quietly effective day for Red Bull with the third fastest time and 89 laps, albeit well over a second behind Raikkonen and Hamilton.

“For us it’s not about showing how quick we can be at the moment,” said Verstappen.

“It’s the first test week and the second day, so it’s much more important to get some mileage in and to check if all the parts are okay.

“The speed difference compared to the cars from last year is a good step; it’s definitely more enjoyable through the faster corners.”

Red Bull were the only team to deny Mercedes a clean sweep of 21 race victories last season as Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo claimed one won apiece at the Spanish and Malaysian Grand Prixs respectively.

And Ricciardo believes Mercedes can be beaten this season.

“We can beat them,” the Australian told Sky Sports. “We’ve got the same set of rules as everybody else so there’s no reason why we can’t across the course of the season.”

Rosberg foils Hamilton to claim maiden title

November 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Nico Rosberg clinched his maiden world title on Sunday, finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix despite Lewis Hamilton ignoring team orders in his quest to foil the German.

Rosberg

The 31-year-old Rosberg concluded the longest season in the sport’s history with a nail-biting second place under intense pressure after leader and ultimate race winner Hamilton had slowed the field to create a difficult finish.

Hamilton reeled off his 10th win of the season –- the most by any driver not to win the title -– and the 53rd of his career, but his gamesmanship upset his team and his team-mate in the closing laps.

His final lap was nine seconds slower than the lap that carried him to pole and was clearly designed to push Rosberg into a vulnerable position as Sebastian Vettel closed in in his Ferrari.Hamilton ignored two instructions from the team to increase his speed at the front, but was unable to create a situation in which Rosberg could be attacked and passed.

Rosberg joined an exclusive club by becoming only the second son of a former champion to take the title, his father Keke having won the championship 34 years ago with the Williams team.

Briton Damon Hill did the same when he won the title with Williams, following his father Graham’s achievements, in 1996.

Rosberg also became Germany’s third champion.

The tension was palpable as the drivers headed for the podium after the race in which Vettel finished third for Ferrari ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Rosberg celebrated by giving F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone a massive bear hug, lifting the diminutive octogenarian high into the air, as Hamilton stared glumly at the floor.

Rosberg reliving the final tense laps, said: “With the guys (Vettel and Verstappen) coming up behind me the end was not the most enjoyable.

“I’m very proud to have done the same feat as my Dad achieved.”

On the podium Hamilton’s good grace returned and he gave his former teenage go-carting companion a handshake and a hug.

“Big congratulations to Nico, good job man,” said Hamilton.

Of his own attempted spoiling tactics, Hamilton said simply: “We were fighting for the championship, I was in the lead so I control the pace…. That is the rules.”

Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, and Brazilian Felipe Massa made emotional exits after competing in their final races of long and successful careers.

Button was forced into retirement after only 12 laps while Massa placed ninth.

As the sun descended at the end of a hot, dry and dusty day at the Yas Marina circuit, Hamilton made a perfect start from his 61st pole position to lead away from Rosberg.

In a frantic opening lap, Verstappen spun after touching the Force India car of German Nico Hulkenberg, dropping him to 17th as he rejoined and advanced through the pack.

After a series of pit stops and mid-field scraps Hamilton was left in control by lap 34 ahead of Rosberg by 1.3 seconds with Verstappen third and Vettel, setting fastest laps, climbing back to fifth to launch himself in pursuit of the two Red Bulls.

“Ok, Lewis, we really need to pick up the pace,” Hamilton is told by his team. “Vettel is a threat.” For the defending champion, it was the news he wanted to hear, even if for Mercedes it presented a dilemma.

With 10 laps remaining, it was obvious Hamilton was driving as cautiously as he could to compress the field and create a threat behind Rosberg.

“Ok, Lewis, this is an instruction – we need 45.1 – this is for a win, said the team on Hamilton’s radio on lap 46. “You should just let us race,” he replied.

Mercedes technical team chief Paddy Lowe followed on the radio. “Lewis, this is Paddy. We need you to pick up the pace to win this race. That’s an instruction.”

“I am actually in the lead right now,” said Hamilton. Lowe’s face on the pit wall fell in despair.

On lap 51, Vettel passed Verstappen for third with a bold move to increase the tension, leaving Hamilton backing Rosberg back towards the charging Ferrari, but he survived to take his title.

Hamilton edges Rosberg for Brazilian pole

November 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton enhanced his hopes of taking the title fight down to the wire on Saturday when he outpaced Mercedes team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg to grab pole position for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Hamilton

The defending world champion Hamilton, who was suffering with a cold, must stop the German from winning on Sunday to take the title race to the final grand prix of the season, at Abu Dhabi in two weeks.

It was the perfect moment for the Briton to become only the third driver ever to secure 60 Formula One pole positions, behind Hamilton’s hero Ayrton Senna (65 poles) and Michael Schumacher (68).

The three-time world champion clocked a best lap in one minute and 10.736 seconds to pip Rosberg by 0.102 seconds as the pair duelled in the final seconds of a tense qualifying session.

“Honestly, I felt quite comfortable all through qualifying as I have all weekend,” said a cool and calm Hamilton, despite suffering from a cold.

“Nico’s been going quicker and quicker, but I’ve generally had it covered. This is the best I could have hoped for coming to Brazil.

“It’s always been a track I’ve struggled at so I’m glad to be up there at the front.”

Hamilton, who has never won in Brazil, said he was not worried by the forecasts of rain for Sunday at Interlagos.

“I don’t mind at all, I’m ready for whatever,” he said.

Rosberg has one hand on his first F1 title.

He took pole and won in Brazil in 2014 and 2015 and will secure the championship at last if he completes a hat-trick of wins.

“It was exciting and it was very close,” said Rosberg.

“Lewis was marginally quicker than me in the end. But that’s ok, pole isn’t always the guy who wins the race so I’m still optimistic for tomorrow.”

Behind the two Mercedes, Kimi Raikkonen produced an unexpected fast late lap to take third for Ferrari narrowly ahead of Dutch teenager Max Verstappen of Red Bull, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull.

“Well done mate, great job,” Ferrari told Raikkonen. “That’s a surprise because the first part of the lap was no good,” replied the Finn.

When his race engineer congratulated him, he added: “Thanks, I was pretty average!”

Frenchman Romain Grosjean was seventh for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, with two-time champion Fernando Alonso taking 10th for McLaren.

Heavy clouds had threatened rain as the Q1 session began with Hamilton heading the queue out of the pit lane ahead of Rosberg.

The Mercedes pair were soon setting the pace, Hamilton going top with a lap in 1:11.511, giving him an advantage of three-tenths on Rosberg’s first flying run behind him.

They stayed there while the rest slithered and scrapped for times, Jenson Button failing to make the cut for McLaren in a lowly 17th place.

Hamilton was out rapidly again for Q2 and Valtteri Bottas gave Williams a boost by going third temporarily before Felipe Massa, in his last home race, radioed in to say he felt that his Williams had a puncture.

“The front tyres aren’t working,” he said.

The session ended in drama as the home hero failed to make the cut along with team-mate Bottas, qualifying in 13th and 11th respectively.

For retirement-bound Massa, in his 13th and final Brazil race, 13th will be the worst grid position of his career for his home event.

Losing title will hurt less than 2007, says Hamilton

October 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton accepts he is more likely to lose the Formula One title than win it, even if he is giving it his best shot, but failure will hurt less than in 2007 when he missed out by a single point.

Hamilton

The triple world champion’s victory in Mexico on Sunday was the 51st of his career, putting him second equal on the all-time lists with France’s Alain Prost.

“I am not focused on the championship now, I am focused on trying to win these races, performing at my best,” said the Mercedes driver, 19 points behind team mate Nico Rosberg with two rounds remaining.

Rosberg will be champion for the first time if the German triumphs in Brazil, a race he has dominated from pole position for the past two years and that Hamilton has yet to win, next week.

Asked whether he was prepared to lose, Hamilton said he had been there before.

“I lost in 2007 and I know it won’t be as painful as then,” he said, referring to his rookie season with McLaren when he was pipped in the final race in Brazil by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

“I have lost many races and championships in my career so it is not like I haven’t experienced it. I am in a scenario now where there is more of a chance I will lose it than win it. It is hard to swallow but it is what it is.

“Life will move on, I will move on. I still have three (titles). I really hope next year I don’t have reliability problems.”

Rosberg finished second on Sunday and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said there was now less pressure on the German.

“I think for Nico it’s maybe beneficial now because all this talking (about how) ‘you need to finish second in order to make it to the end’ is finished now,” Wolff told reporters.

“He has it in his hands. If he wins the race in Brazil, he’s winning the championship early.

“I think this is maybe a bit easier in terms of tackling the situation with a little bit less pressure because he still has another go in Abu Dhabi.”

Rosberg, the bookmakers’ favourite, has adopted the mantra of one race at a time and said that would remain the same.

“I’m not going to change my approach,” he said. “I’m going for the win in Brazil.”

Hamilton in US spotlight as title chase enters home straight

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton’s behaviour on and off the circuit will go under a sharp media microscope as he bids to keep his title challenge alive at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton

Back at the scene of his crushing title-winning triumph in 2015, when he scored a belligerent victory to end Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s challenge, the 31-year-old Briton this time faces a very different scenario.

It will begin on Thursday when, two weeks after his controversial Snapchat antics in Japan, he returns to appear before the international media at a mandatory pre-event news conference.

At Suzuka, he played on his camera and complained that the media session was “killing me” and the furore that followed resulted in him walking out of a team news briefing two days later.

That led to more media uproar that many believed undermined his concentration and led to his poor race start that saw him fall from second on the grid to eighth.

He can ill afford any similar slip this time as he goes into the first of the final four races of a roller-coaster season with a 33-point deficit behind Rosberg.

The defending three-time world champion may be seeking his 50th career win at one of his favourite circuits, but he knows that Rosberg wants revenge after being forced off track last year.

Rosberg, also 31, has the luxury, however, of knowing that he does not have to win again this season to clinch his first world title. Four second-place finishes behind Hamiltonwill be enough.

As to his media commitments, Hamilton has been confirmed, by his Mercedes bosses, as a participant in each and every one at the Circuit of the Americas despite suggesting, in Japan, that he might not answer any more questions from reporters.

All this and the news this week that he is to be a character in the next edition of the video game ‘Call of Duty’ — suggests that Hamilton is relishing his back-to-the-wall last-ditch bid for glory in a land where he feels at home and is widely popular.

As usual, it has been impossible for the Englishman to escape being the main story ahead of this race while Rosberg, winner of four of the last five races in which Hamiltonhas struggled, has been subdued.

“Every now and then I’ve seen people have an opinion about how emotional I get,” saidHamilton, who has three wins in four appearances in Austin.

“It’s like I should be more happy — even when I’ve lost.

“But I think people forget how heavily invested I am in this sport. It’s the same for anyone whatever they are doing, it’s about how much investment they have put in and my heart has been invested in this for 23 years.

“This has been part of my life since I was eight; it is an extension of my life and my body.”

As to the championship, Hamilton added: “We’ve got four races left to make the most of it and that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

Rosberg knows what he has to do in the title run-in and will be looking for something better than last year’s disappointment.

“Last year this race obviously didn’t work out so great for me, so I’m looking forward to getting back and doing my best to get it right this time,” he said.

Both men, however, will be mindful of the challenge from a much-improved Red Bull outfit and possibly Ferrari.

A nervy and tense weekend is in prospect.

Hamilton needs a Suzuka hat-trick after Sepang blow

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Lewis Hamilton will have to dig deep to overcome the heartbreak of Malaysia as he heads into Sunday’s Formula One Japanese Grand Prix needing a third straight win at the Suzuka circuit to revive his flagging title prospects.

Hamilton

The triple world champion’s hopes of claiming a fourth title were dealt a heavy blow on Sunday at the Sepang circuit when he was forced to retire with a blown engine while holding a comfortable lead with 16 laps remaining.

That allowed Australian Daniel Ricciardo to score his first win of the year ahead of Red Bull team mate Max Verstappen in the team’s first one-two finish since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Had Hamilton won, scoring a landmark 50th career victory, he would have vaulted back to the top of the overall standings ahead of Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.

Instead he heads to Japan needing to bridge a 23-point gap to the German, who finished third in Malaysia after being spun around and dropped to the back of the field by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the start.

Vettel will drop three grid places in Japan as punishment for tipping Rosberg into the spin.

“It’s not how you fall, it’s how you get back up,” Hamilton told reporters.

“If I can find strength from within to be able to come to these next races and perform like I’ve performed this weekend then, providing the car holds together, good things will come.”

Sunday’s engine failure was the latest in a spate of reliability issues that have plagued Hamilton’s 2016 campaign and prompted the Briton to hint at a conspiracy.

“Someone doesn’t want me to win this year. My question is to Mercedes. We have so many engines made but mine are the only ones failing this year,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Someone needs to give me some answers because this is not acceptable. We are fighting for the championship and only my engines are failing. It does not sit right with me.”

Hamilton turned a deficit of 43 points to Rosberg earlier in the season into a 19-point advantage over the German with a streak of six wins from seven races, but he is running out of time to mount another comeback with only five races left.

Rosberg, whose Finnish father Keke took the 1982 title, is keeping his focus squarely on Japan.

“I’m quite liking my approach of just seeing it as a weekend-on-a-weekend basis so don’t have such thoughts and just accepting the way it went today,” he said.

“Next is Suzuka where I want to try and win again.”

Mercedes can win the constructors’ championship on Sunday for the third year in a row.

McLaren will also be hoping to put on a strong showing in engine supplier Honda’s home race.

The former champions and Japanese manufacturer, who own the Suzuka circuit, renewed their once-dominant partnership last season but endured a bruising year.

Fernando Alonso criticised the engine as ‘GP2’ standard during last year’s race but the team have made steady progress this season and are optimistic about their chances of finishing in the points on home soil.

We’ll come back stronger in Japan, vows Mercedes boss

October 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Mercedes are “beating themselves up” about Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix engine failure but have vowed to come back stronger in Japan this weekend.

Mercedes

Team principal Toto Wolff was almost lost for words after leader Hamilton’s engine exploded 15 laps from victory Sunday at the Sepang International Circuit.

“It’s hard to know how to sum up a day like today,” Wolff said. “I just have no words for what happened to Lewis. We feel his pain.”

Hamilton was close to tears after the dramatic retirement dealt a severe blow to his chances of winning a third drivers’ championship in a row, as his teammate Nico Rosberg finished third to extend his championship lead to 23 points.

Immediately after the race, won by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Hamilton lashed out at his team, accusing them of favouring their German driver Rosberg.

“My question is to Mercedes: we have so many engines made for drivers, but mine are the only ones failing this year,” 31-year-old Hamilton told BBC radio.

Wolff admitted he did not have the answer. “This is a mechanical sport, with so much technology, but sometimes you get blindsided by situations with no rational explanation,” he said. “It’s a freaky coincidence.

“Our guys will get to the bottom of what happened and learn from it. But I want to focus on how Lewis responded in the aftermath. We let him down today and we are beating up ourselves about it.”

Hamilton’s emotional outburst, said Wolff, was in the heat of the moment. But he praised his driver for afterwards making peace with the team and refocusing on the next race on Sunday.

“What Lewis said, it’s completely understandable. But he came back to the garage and shook the hand of every team member.

“We talked in a small group and we were all really down. Then he stood in front of the team and found the words to lift everybody and help us recover quickly for Japan.

“This is what the great drivers do, the true champions, and I must express my respect for how he conducted himself today.

“One of the greatest qualities of our group is how we come back from defeat even stronger than before. We will do that again now, in time for Japan next weekend.”

Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe was more forthright in describing what had befallen Hamilton.

“The word is ‘bollocks’ really,” said Lowe. “This is one of the more difficult races of the year and we approached the weekend knowing it would be tough to get a top result. And so it transpired.

“Lewis was well on track to secure the win. We’re all absolutely devastated for him.”

Lowe refuted any talk of conspiracy theories.

“One thing we had made a priority was to ensure an equal competition between the drivers,” Lowe said. “Unfortunately, we have failed in that objective today in brutal fashion.

“We will go away and analyse what happened today, aiming to arrive in Japan prepared to bounce back in the best way we can.”

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