‘ Snap-prat’ won’t give up

> Hamil­ton will fight to fin­ish, says Wolff

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

LEWIS HAMIL­TON will take the Formula One ti­tle race down to the wire, in­sisted Mercedes boss Toto Wolff af­ter the Bri­ton was floored by a ram­pant Nico Ros­berg in Ja­pan.

Ros­berg has opened a 33point lead over his Bri­tish foe with just four races left and will take some stop­ping in this form.

But while Hamil­ton’s hopes of re­tain­ing his crown were left hang­ing by a thread, Wolff pre­dicted a back­lash from the triple world cham­pion.

“It’s not over,” said the Aus­trian, who barely had time to savour a third suc­ces­sive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle for Mercedes in Ja­pan.

“Lewis is go­ing to come back strong, he needs the en­emy some­times. That’s how he func­tions.”

Ros­berg dom­i­nated all week­end at Suzuka as Hamil­ton ap­peared to lose the plot.

The Bri­ton hinted that sab­o­tage may have been to blame for the en­gine blaze that cru­elly robbed him of a cer­tain vic­tory in Malaysia a week ear­lier, much to the dis­may of his Mercedes team.

Hamil­ton’s be­hav­iour grew in­creas­ingly bizarre in Ja­pan, where he bat­tled back to take third af­ter a hor­ror start saw him fall back to eighth.

He snubbed me­dia af­ter be­ing widely crit­i­cised for fid­dling with his mo­bile phone and up­load­ing bunny-ear pho­tos to Snapchat dur­ing an of­fi­cial FIA press con­fer­ence.

Bri­tish tabloids duly let rip at Hamil­ton, one la­belling him “Snap-Prat” and another “Berk in the Merc” – slang terms for “fool”.

Hamil­ton failed to see the funny side and walked out on jour­nal­ists af­ter threat­en­ing to re­duce his fu­ture me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The smiles on your faces will be no longer,” he sneered, be­fore stomp­ing off.

A 100th podium was scant con­so­la­tion for Hamil­ton, who cut a for­lorn fig­ure as Ros­berg toasted a ninth vic­tory of the year and his fourth in five races.

How­ever, Wolff backed Hamil­ton to re­dis­cover his mojo and push Ros­berg all the way.

“Lewis func­tions best when he is un­der pres­sure and he has a tar­get,” he said. “I have no doubt this will be an in­tense fight. It’s go­ing to go down to the end.

“Just af­ter the race is not the right mo­ment to put the fin­ger where it hurts,” he added, look­ing for­ward to the next race in Austin, Texas, in two weeks.

“We need to calm down and find out what hap­pened. Our main em­pha­sis will be build­ing Lewis up. We have 10 days be­fore Austin, it’s not a rush like last week.”

Far re­moved from the melo­drama sur­round­ing Hamil­ton, Ros­berg looks al­most un­stop­pable.

But the Ger­man has suf­fered his share of heart­break at the hands of Hamil­ton and re­jected the no­tion he has one hand on his first Formula One crown.

“I’m well aware of the 33 points but there are still many races to go so I’m just keep­ing my head down,” said Ros­berg, whose Fin­nish fa­ther Keke won the ti­tle in 1982.

“Lewis is al­ways go­ing to be fight­ing, al­ways go­ing to be tough to beat,” he added.

“I haven’t seen any self­de­struc­tion (from Hamil­ton) – any­ways, it’s about get­ting the best out of my­self and not fo­cus­ing on what Lewis’s state of mind is.” – AFP

– REUTERSPIX

Mercedes’ driv­ers Nico Ros­berg (right) and Lewis Hamil­ton af­ter the awards cer­e­mony of the Ja­panese Grand Prix on Sun­day.

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