Lewis, you had it ‘TOO EASY’

ALONSO CASTS DOUBT ON BRI­TISH DRIVER’S GREAT­NESS AF­TER FOURTH TI­TLE WIN

The Nation - - SPORT -

BRAZIL­IAN foot­baller Ney­mar led a cho­rus of con­grat­u­la­tions for Bri­tish mo­tor rac­ing driver Lewis Hamil­ton af­ter he clinched his fourth for­mula one world ti­tle in Mex­ico yes­ter­day (Thai­land time).

The world’s most ex­pen­sive player was even given ac­cess to the Mercedes team ra­dio so he could pass on his best wishes di­rectly to his friend.

“Hey Lewis, it’s Ney­mar, I’m happy for you bro, fourth world cham­pi­onship - win­ner!” he said in a mes­sage that was broad­cast live on the BBC.

But one man stood alone in cast­ing doubt on the Bri­ton’s great­ness – for­mer team­mate and dou­ble world cham­pion Fer­nando Alonso, who claimed he had had it “too easy” in 2017.

Hamil­ton had been em­broiled in a close fight at the top of the stand­ings with Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel for much of the year but as Vet­tel’s cham­pi­onship chal­lenge un­rav­elled, Hamil­ton romped to the ti­tle with two races to spare.

Alonso, who fin­ished tenth in his McLaren, sug­gested the ti­tle had been won too eas­ily and that the sud­den re­tire­ment of Nico Ros­berg, last year’s cham­pion and Hamil­ton’s team­mate, had left him a clear run.

“It was very easy this year, no op­po­nents,” Alonso said. “Last year he had Nico un­til the last race, fight­ing ev­ery sin­gle race.”

“This year was too easy. Mercedes [ won] four races to the end con­struc­tors’ cham­pion, Hamil­ton three races be­fore the end driv­ers’ cham­pion. Hope­fully McLaren-Renault will change this easy time for them.”

The Spa­niard struck a de­fi­ant note when he added that he ex­pected his own team’s im­ped­ing switch from Honda to the more-pow­er­ful Renault en­gines to give Hamil­ton a chal­lenge in 2018.

“I think next year hope­fully we can give a lit­tle bit harder time to him,” he said.

Not that Hamil­ton is likely to be too both­ered about Alonso’s com­ments.

For one thing, the pair have a well-chron­i­cled his­tory of an­i­mos­ity dat­ing back to their time to­gether at McLaren ten years ago.

For another, there were far more peo­ple queu­ing up to pay tribute to Hamil­ton’s achieve­ments, in­clud­ing Ros­berg him­self, sprinter Usain Bolt and for­mer world su­per­bike cham­pion Carl Fog­a­rty.

There were trib­utes from all of his op­po­nents too, in­clud­ing Felipe Massa, who had ear­lier said Hamil­ton de­served to be rated as highly as the two men re­garded as the best of all, Michael Schu­macher and Ayr­ton Senna.

Hamil­ton went into yes­ter­day’s race need­ing to only fin­ish fifth to put him­self out of reach of his clos­est chal­lenger, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

For a while, even that straight­for­ward task looked un­likely af­ter a first-lap col­li­sion with Vet­tel that left him­self with a punc­tured tyre, an im­me­di­ate pit-stop – and fum­ing.

How­ever, he com­posed him­self and bat­tled from last to fin­ish ninth as Dutch­man Max Ver­stap­pen won the race for Red Bull.

Vet­tel, him­self also a four-time cham­pion, came home fourth for Fer­rari af­ter driv­ing through the field from 19th fol­low­ing his part in the early crash with Hamil­ton. He had needed to win the race to keep the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship alive.

Hamil­ton’s ti­tle tri­umph made him the first Bri­ton to be a four-time cham­pion, el­e­vat­ing him clear of Jackie Ste­wart, and along­side Vet­tel and French­man Alain Prost.

Only Ger­man Michael Schu­macher, with seven ti­tles, and Ar­gen­tine Juan- Manuel Fan­gio, on five, have claimed more cham­pi­onships than the English­man.

“I don’t know what hap­pened at turn three, I gave him plenty of room,” said Hamil­ton.

“It doesn’t feel real man. It’s not the race you want when you’re 40 sec­onds down, but I never gave up.”

Af­ter five wins in the pre­vi­ous six races, it was a dis­ap­point­ing way for Hamil­ton – who said he wanted to win the ti­tle in style – to win the crown.

Ver­stap­pen won the race con­vinc­ingly ahead of Hamil­ton’s Mercedes team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas and his Fin­nish com­pa­triot Kimi Raikko­nen of Fer­rari.

“I’d like to say a big thanks to ev­ery­body in this Mercedes team,” said Hamil­ton. “What you’ve done the past cou­ple of years is in­cred­i­ble. I’m so grate­ful.”

Ver­stap­pen led from the first lap once Hamil­ton and Vet­tel had clashed.

“The start was very cru­cial. I went around the out­side and from then on I was just look­ing af­ter the car and the tyres,” said the Dutch­man af­ter a third race win.

“Big thanks to Red Bull, with­out them it was not pos­si­ble. Af­ter last week [when he re­ceived a five-sec­ond penalty in Austin. which lost him third place], it was a per­fect race.”

Mercedes’ non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Niki Lauda, a three-time world cham­pion, hailed Hamil­ton’s achieve­ment.

“Lewis won it, he de­serves it,” said Lauda, who said Vet­tel had been at fault for the open­ing-lap col­li­sion.

“I don’t know why Se­bas­tian drove so ag­gres­sively to de­stroy his race. Lewis was in front and Vet­tel hit him with his front wing. I just don’t un­der­stand it.”

Lewis Hamil­ton laps up the at­ten­tion and pa­rades his flag as the world’s press vie for a photo of the new cham­pion yes­ter­day.

Scep­ti­cal: Fer­nando Alonso

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