World cham­pion still rankling af­ter de­mo­tion at last year’s Bel­gian GP

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

SPA-FRAN­COR­CHAMPS, Bel­gium: For­mula One cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton said he has un­fin­ished busi­ness to take care of in to­mor­row’s Bel­gian Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver took a thrilling victory at the Spa cir­cuit last year on his way to the ti­tle, but was then de­moted to third place af­ter a chi­cane-cut­ting con­tro­versy.

The pre­vi­ous year he had fin­ished fourth on a week­end over­shad­owed by McLaren be­ing stripped of all their con­struc­tors’ points for hav­ing Fer­rari data in their pos­ses­sion.

“I hope it is third time lucky. That’s a good way to look at it, I think, es­pe­cially as we have come off two very good race week­ends,” said Hamil­ton, who was fastest in yes­ter­day’s free prac­tice.

“I al­ways seem to go quite well here, even though this cir­cuit is se­ri­ously high down­force so you need to have a good pack­age be­neath you.

“I don’t think we have had the best, es­pe­cially for high­speed cor­ners, but bit by bit we are mak­ing im­prove­ments” said the 24-year-old, who won in Hun­gary last month and fin­ished sec­ond in Va­len­cia last week­end.

“If we are able to get the bal­ance through­out the week­end then hope­fully we will be able to chal­lenge for an­other podium.

“I def­i­nitely want to get that win here. I felt like I won it last year and it would feel good to get that win here,” he said.

Hamil­ton started the sea­son with a car so un­com­pet­i­tive that McLaren im­me­di­ately ruled out be­ing able to chal­lenge for vic­to­ries. The cham­pion has long given up on any hope of de­fend­ing his crown.

How­ever, the Mercedes-pow­ered team have made huge strides over the months since the Aus­tralian sea­son-opener in March, al­low­ing Hamil­ton to hope for an­other strong per­for­mance at one of For­mula One’s great tracks.

Hamil­ton also has the ben­e­fit of the KERS en­ergy re­cov­ery sys­tem which gives his car a brief boost of power at the push of a but­ton. “This is one of my favourite cir­cuits and one of the best cir­cuits in the world,” said the Bri­ton.

“You look for­ward to cer­tain races in the year and this is one of them. This is a se­ri­ous cir­cuit.

“It is se­ri­ous high speed, very long. I have al­ways said that it is one of those cir­cuits where you ac­tu­ally feel you are go­ing some­where as you go up through the woods.”

Toy­ota’s Timo Glock was sec­ond, 0.016 slower, af­ter Ital­ian team mate Jarno Trulli had topped the timesheets in a rain­swept morn­ing ses­sion.

The sun came out af­ter lunch and Hamil­ton showed that McLaren’s re­cent re­vival was not con­fined to tight and twisty tracks.

Toy­ota, still chas­ing their first win, also looked sur­pris­ingly quick, while favourites Red Bull had Aus­tralian Mark Web­ber fourth fastest be­hind Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen, who pulled over in the clos­ing sec- onds. French rookie Ro­main Gros­jean was an im­pres­sive fifth for Re­nault.

Cham­pi­onship leader Jen­son But­ton, who leads team mate Rubens Bar­richello by 18 points, was a dis­tant 17th with the Brazil­ian 18th. But­ton had been sec­ond in the morn­ing be­fore the rain fell.

Red Bull’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, fourth in the cham­pi­onship but 25 points adrift of But­ton, sat out the first ses­sion to save his en­gines af­ter blow­ing two in Va­len­cia last week­end but was 10th in the af­ter­noon.

The 22-year-old has only two fresh en­gines re­main­ing and will col­lect a 10-place penalty on the start­ing grid at any race where he has to go over his offi- cial al­lo­ca­tion of eight en­gines for the sea­son.

“Hav­ing two fail­ures within two days was not a good thing ... it af­fects the pro­gramme for the rest of the sea­son,” he had said af­ter arriving at the cir­cuit.

“The last thing we want is to take a penalty, so the ques­tion now is what can we do.

“We are con­sid­er­ing now all our op­tions and pos­si­bly this means less run­ning for my­self on a Fri­day, so less prac­tice which for sure is not an ad­van­tage.”

Fer­rari stand-in Luca Ba­doer looked ragged on a track that he at least has pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of. The 38-yearold Ital­ian was 10th in the morn­ing, his time flat­tered by the capri­cious weather con­di­tions, and then slow­est in the af­ter­noon with a time more than two sec­onds off Hamil­ton’s best.

Com­pa­triot Gian­carlo Fisichella, who would love to re­place Ba­doer, was sixth fastest for Force In­dia. – Reuters

REUTERS

IN THE GROOVE: McLaren’s Lewis Hamil­ton shows clin­i­cal pre­ci­sion as he sweeps through one of the Spa Fran­cor­champs’ high-speed cor­ners in prepa­ra­tion for to­mor­row’s Bel­gian Grand Prix. The cur­rent world cham­pion clocked the fastest time of the day.

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