ONCE BIT­TEN TWICE SHY

Hamil­ton will not let ti­tle slip again

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LONDON fastest in pre-sea­son test­ing and rais­ing sus­pi­cions that their new SF70H car has closed the chasm be­tween Mercedes and the rest.

Vet­tel is the sec­ond favourite in the bet­ting odds at 4/1.

Mercedes have won 51 of the last 59 races, and all but two of 21 last year.

For­mer Red Bull ace Vet­tel and veteran team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen, Fer­rari’s most re­cent world cham­pion in 2007, drew a blank in 2016 and have plenty of pres­sure on them to suc­ceed.

There is also the pos­si­bil­ity, al­beit re­mote de­spite Ros­berg’s sur­prise de­ci­sion to re­tire only days after win­ning his first ti­tle, that Hamil­ton does some­thing ex­plo­sive.

“Lewis is an emo­tional beast and there might be a sit­u­a­tion where he just goes: “I’ve had enough and I don’t want to do it,’” said Hill.

“If it’s not go­ing well for Lewis, then he does have a ten­dency to make his feel­ings known.”

Hamil­ton is huge box of­fice, a global celebrity and fa­mil­iar face even in Amer­ica. And Amer­i­cans like win­ners.

But it would do no good for For­mula One, in a new era of faster cars and US-based own­ers Lib­erty Me­dia calling the shots in place of ousted 86-year-old supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone, if Hamil­ton runs away un­chal­lenged.

With Valt­teri Bot­tas still find­ing his feet after join­ing from Wil­liams as Ros­berg’s re­place­ment, and yet to win a race, that is also quite pos­si­ble.

Bot­tas has never been beaten by a team­mate over a sea­son, but he has spent all his time at Wil­liams and Hamil­ton is some­thing else.

“Nico had his guts turned in­side out to win that cham­pi­onship last year,” said Hill.

“He (Hamil­ton) is a fear­some com­peti­tor...I think he’ll re­dou­ble his ef­forts after last year.”

Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen and Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, who each won a race last year, can also be counted on for thrills and their new car could be more com­pet­i­tive than test­ing times have in­di­cated. Wil­liams have the youngest and least ex­pe­ri­enced driver on the grid in Cana­dian 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll but he is bet­ter placed than Bel­gian stand­out Stof­fel Van­doorne at McLaren.

Van­doorne, who did one race last year, has re­placed the de­parted 2009 cham­pion Jen­son But­ton in a car plagued with re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems.

The sport has a new look, with fat­ter tyres and wider cars that also look more ag­gres­sive.

That has seen lap times slashed, with driv­ers able to take many cor­ners flat out even if cars are slower on the straights.

Whether they can over­take any more eas­ily re­mains an open ques­tion, and the more durable tyres are likely to lead to fewer pit­stops.

“Let’s hope the rac­ing’s fan­tas­tic, but don’t hold your breath, I’d say,” com­mented Hamil­ton after the first pre-sea­son test. The same sen­ti­ment might well ap­ply to any­one hop­ing to beat the Bri­ton this sea­son.

“Mercedes are the clear, clear favourites. They have won 50 races in the last three years, we’ve won five and Fer­rari three. Do I have to say more?” Red Bull prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner told the of­fi­cial F1.com web­site. Reuters

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