Scottish Daily Mail

HAMIL­TON IS STILL TOP DOG

...de­spite stray ca­nine run­ning on to track

- JONATHAN McEVOY in Bahrain Sports · Dogs · Formula One · Pets · Hobbies · Car Racing · Motorsports · Lewis Hamilton · Ferrari S.p.A. · Sebastian Vettel · Bahrain · Red Bull GmbH · London · Max Verstappen · Mercedes GP · Abu Dhabi · NFL · Hamilton, Canada

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.’

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 ?? EPA ?? Dash­ing fig­ure: Hamil­ton yes­ter­day
EPA Dash­ing fig­ure: Hamil­ton yes­ter­day

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