Otago Daily Times

Hamil­ton, Mercedes can set records

MO­TOR­SPORT

- Sports · Formula One · Car Racing · Motorsports · Lewis Hamilton · Mercedes GP · Portugal · Ferrari S.p.A. · Michael Schumacher · Red Bull GmbH · Valtteri Bottas · Italy · Germany · Germany national football team · McLaren · Charles Leclerc · Portimao · Portugal national football team · Toto Wolff · Lando Norris

POR­TI­MAO: Lewis Hamil­ton and his Mercedes team can make For­mula One his­tory to­mor­row as Por­tu­gal re­turns for the first time in 24 years on a cal­en­dar re­shaped by the Covid­19 pan­demic.

The six times world cham­pion equalled Fer­rari great Michael Schu­macher’s record 91 grand prix vic­to­ries in the pre­vi­ous race at the Nuer­bur­gring and now has his first op­por­tu­nity to go one bet­ter.

Mercedes mean­while have their first chance to seal an un­prece­dented sev­enth suc­ces­sive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle, although they may have to wait an­other week­end for the in­evitable to be con­firmed.

The cham­pi­ons will need to score 40 points more than clos­est ri­vals Red Bull for that to hap­pen at Por­ti­mao’s un­du­lat­ing Al­garve In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit, which is host­ing a grand prix for the first time.

Red Bull has drawn a blank twice in 11 races so far this sea­son while Hamil­ton has won seven times and Fin­nish team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas, now 69 points be­hind in the stand­ings with six races to go, twice.

Mercedes has scored 40 points or more in six of the races, with three one­two fin­ishes, but on all those oc­ca­sions Red Bull man­aged to take at least 15.

Bot­tas re­tired with a power unit fail­ure at the Nuer­bur­gring, a ma­jor blow to his slim ti­tle hopes, but Mercedes is on top of the prob­lem.

‘‘We have iden­ti­fied a failed elec­tri­cal com­po­nent in the con­trol elec­tron­ics as the cause of the prob­lem and the ev­i­dence sug­gests that swift ac­tion in re­tir­ing the car pre­vented me­chan­i­cal dam­age to his power unit,’’ team boss Toto Wolff said.

Hamil­ton has demon­strated he per­forms well at rac­ing cir­cuits new to the cal­en­dar in the past and has won twice this year at tracks that would not have fea­tured but for the pan­demic — Italy’s Mugello and Ger­many’s Nuer­bur­gring.

While the Por­tuguese track is a nov­elty for For­mula One rac­ing, some cur­rent For­mula One driv­ers have raced or tested there on their way to the top tier of mo­tor rac­ing.

Hamil­ton tested in the Al­garve with McLaren in 2009 while Bot­tas raced there in For­mula Three, as did Fer­rari’s Charles Le­clerc.

‘‘The cir­cuit is prob­a­bly new to a lot of the guys with a few of them hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence there in ju­nior lev­els,’’ said Lando Nor­ris, who did a two­day test there in 2017 in a 2011 McLaren.

 ?? PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES ?? Not happy . . . UK driver Lewis Hamil­ton of Mercedes GP talks dur­ing the driv­ers’ press con­fer­ence ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Por­tu­gal at Au­to­dromo In­ter­na­cional do Al­garve yes­ter­day in Por­ti­mao.
PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES Not happy . . . UK driver Lewis Hamil­ton of Mercedes GP talks dur­ing the driv­ers’ press con­fer­ence ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Por­tu­gal at Au­to­dromo In­ter­na­cional do Al­garve yes­ter­day in Por­ti­mao.

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