Scottish Daily Mail
HAMILTON IS STILL TOP DOG
...despite stray canine running on to track
DOG stops play. A longtailed stray penetrated the security fences and came bounding along the track without a care in the world. Lewis Hamilton, starting his victory parade after sealing title No 7 a fortnight ago, was told of the canine intrusion into the second practice session under floodlights.
‘I hope it’s not Roscoe, man,’ said the champion over the radio, a reference to his own pet bulldog.
A red flag brought a temporary halt to proceedings. Over i n his Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel sang: ‘Who let the dogs out/Woof woof.’
The trespasser found its own way off the premises and the action restarted, with Hamilton setting the fastest time, as he had done in the first session, making him favourite to win here in Bahrain and thus claim his 11th victory of a recordcrunching campaign.
By way of contrast, Alex Albon is in a confidence- draining predicament. For, minutes before the dog showed up, the Red Bull driver ran wide at the last corner, slid as he applied the brakes and spun sharply to plant the right side of his car into the wall. The damage was considerable.
Thankfully, t he 24- year- ol d was physically unharmed, though his pride and esteem must have ruptured. His team had an almighty job on their hands to fix up the mangled machinery.
Albon — London- born, Englandeducated but competing under the Thai flag — looks certain to be dropped at the end of a painful season in which he has paled significantly in comparison with his combative team-mate Max Verstappen.
Hamilton is close to signing a new contract with Mercedes — worth £40million a year if he gets his way — before the mooted introduction of a driver salary cap across Formula One.
Speaking ahead of the first of two races in Bahrain, before the final round in Abu Dhabi, the sport’s highest- earning participant turned trade unionist on behalf of his fellow racers.
‘The drivers are the stars and it is their reputations that elevate the sport and help it travel around the world,’ said 35-year-old Hamilton, who is worth in excess of £250m.
‘There have been salary caps in NFL and basketball. The one difference is that there the individuals own their image rights and can try to maximise their earnings elsewhere. But this sport pretty much controls the driver’s image.
‘The cap is supposed to come in after I am here. But I do think about the next up-and-coming young stars and I don’t see why they should be handicapped if they’re bringing something huge to the sport. It is a multi-billion pound business and they should be rewarded.’
The cap i dea has been approved by the teams in principle and awaits further examination. It is unlikely to be introduced before 2023 — and even then there may be ways to circumnavigate the rule.
As for the road that has brought Hamilton to the brink of signing an extension at Mercedes, he di s missed the notion that he was ever seriously considering a move to Ferrari, despite talks with chairman John Elkann.
‘I was never close to leaving my team,’ he said. ‘It’s only right that when you’re looking at committing to the next phase of your life you analyse what your options are and make sure you have done your due diligence and have the pros and cons weighed up.
‘I don’t necessarily know that with Ferrari our values were aligned. I’m so proud and grateful for the journey that I have with Mercedes.’