Hamil­ton needs break in tense F1 ti­tle fight with Vet­tel

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS - —AP

Head­ing into For­mula One’s mid-sea­son break, Lewis Hamil­ton is com­pletely drained. It has been a topsy-turvy 11 races so far, with nine to come af­ter a month off. Hamil­ton trails F1 leader Se­bas­tian Vet­tel by 14 points, with both driv­ers win­ning four races. But Mercedes has strug­gled with re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues on its tires and prob­lems with car bal­ance, all of which has taken its toll on Hamil­ton.

He clearly needs a rest be­fore the tus­sle with Vet­tel starts again at the Bel­gian Grand Prix on Aug. 27. “I def­i­nitely think it’s come at a good time. It’s been tough, phys­i­cally, men­tally and emo­tion­ally,” Hamil­ton said. “I think this break will be good. Recharge and come back hope­fully fresh. I truly be­lieve we have the ca­pa­bil­ity of win­ning this cham­pi­onship.”

Hamil­ton fin­ished fourth at the Hun­gar­ian GP, with Vet­tel win­ning from pole po­si­tion ahead of Fer­rari team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen. Third place was pos­si­ble for Hamil­ton, but he stuck to a gen­tle­man’s agree­ment with Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas and let him past at the end. That was be­cause Bot­tas had al­lowed Hamil­ton to over­take him ear­lier in the race to at­tack the Fer­raris.

The de­ci­sion raised eye­brows, con­sid­er­ing how valu­able the points were that Hamil­ton was es­sen­tially giv­ing away to a main ri­val. “It cost us three points and po­ten­tially the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship, we are per­fectly con­scious about that,” Mercedes head of mo­tor­sport Toto Wolff said. “Nev­er­the­less, it is how the driv­ers and the team op­er­ate. We stick to what we say. If the con­se­quences are as much as los­ing the cham­pi­onship, we take it.”

That is quite some ad­mis­sion, but it shows - at least - that Hamil­ton and Bot­tas are there for each other. In the three pre­vi­ous years, Hamil­ton was con­stantly bick­er­ing and feud­ing with for­mer Mercedes team­mate Nico Ros­berg, who re­tired just days af­ter beat­ing Hamil­ton to win last year’s ti­tle.

“The truth is that if you miss out the cham­pi­onship by those three points ev­ery­body would point the finger to Bu­dapest,” Wolff added. “It was a tough call to make, and prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult that we had to make in the last five years, but it was the right one in terms of our values.”

Fer­rari cer­tainly liked it. Af­ter the prob­lems of last year, when Fer­rari failed to win a race and fin­ished third be­hind Red Bull and Mercedes in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships, things are look­ing up. Fer­rari has not won the driv­ers’ ti­tle since Raikko­nen’s win in 2007, and its last con­struc­tors’ ti­tle came the fol­low­ing year.

Last year, Mercedes fin­ished 367 points ahead of Fer­rari, with the Sil­ver Ar­rows win­ning 19 of 21 races. The gap this sea­son is only 39, in fa­vor of Mercedes be­cause Bot­tas has also won two races while Raikko­nen has yet to win.

“You mustn’t for­get where we were last year, and the step that Fer­rari has made is big­ger than any­one else,” Vet­tel said. “Over the win­ter, I think we were the team that made the least noise. There was a lot of talk about the new cars ... We just kept to our­selves and did the job.”

Fer­rari has closed the gap on Mercedes in terms of speed and the car seems more re­li­able and more flex­i­ble than Mercedes, which has strug­gled on twist­ing tracks like Hun­gary and Monaco where over­tak­ing is dif­fi­cult. There is another one of those com­ing at the Sin­ga­pore GP in midSeptem­ber.

Be­fore that, there is Bel­gium and then the Ital­ian GP in Monza - Vet­tel’s home race. “The mis­sion has been to get back to the top,” the Ger­man driver said. “We got a 1-2 (fin­ish in Bu­dapest) but that’s what we want ev­ery week­end.”

— AFP

BU­DAPEST: Mercedes’ Bri­tish driver Lewis Hamil­ton races at the Hun­garor­ing cir­cuit in Bu­dapest on Sun­day, dur­ing the For­mula One Hun­gar­ian Grand Prix.

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