Lewis, you had it ‘TOO EASY’
ALONSO CASTS DOUBT ON BRITISH DRIVER’S GREATNESS AFTER FOURTH TITLE WIN
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