Hamil­ton comes out fight­ing on and off the cir­cuit

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - PHILIP DUN­CAN AT SPA-FRAN­COR­CHAMPS ■ Email: yp.sport@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @YPS­port

In the heat of the mo­ment I am frus­trated. It was un­nec­es­sary. Lewis Hamil­ton ques­tions the need to bring the safety car out at Spa.

LEWIS HAMIL­TON has hinted that For­mula 1’s race of­fi­cials at­tempted to ma­nip­u­late the re­sult of the Bel­gian Grand Prix fol­low­ing an “un­nec­es­sary” safety car.

Twenty-four hours af­ter Hamil­ton equalled Michael Schu­macher’s all-time pole po­si­tion record, the Bri­ton, cel­e­brat­ing his 200th race, led vir­tu­ally ev­ery lap here in the Ar­dennes to halve the deficit to Se­bas­tian Vet­tel at the sum­mit of the cham­pi­onship.

But Hamil­ton’s vic­tory, his fifth of this see-saw cam­paign, came un­der threat with 14 laps re­main­ing af­ter veteran race of­fi­cial Char­lie Whit­ing de­ployed a safety car fol­low­ing a col­li­sion be­tween Force In­dia team-mates Ser­gio Perez and Este­ban Ocon.

De­bris from the Force In­dia cars lit­tered the en­try to the high­speed Eau Rouge cor­ner and the en­su­ing Kem­mel Straight, and the safety car was sent out to en­able mar­shals to clear the dan­ger.

But Hamil­ton felt ag­grieved that the de­ci­sion would cost him vic­tory, par­tic­u­larly with Vet­tel sport­ing the ul­tra­soft tyre – the quick­est of the three com­pounds avail­able this week­end – while he was on the soft, the slow­est.

‘’Why have they got the safety car out?,’’ a dis­grun­tled Hamil­ton said over the ra­dio. ‘’There is lit­er­ally no de­bris any­where. That’s a BS [bulls***] call from the stew­ards.”

Hamil­ton man­aged to hold off Vet­tel for what could prove to be a cru­cial vic­tory. In­deed his ri­val would have moved 21 points clear had he man­aged to win. As it is, the gap stands at seven ahead of next week’s Ital­ian Grand Prix.

“It felt a bit like NASCAR when they kept putting the safety car out for no rea­son,” said Hamil­ton.

“The front wing from the Force In­dia was clear af­ter we slowed down, and they could have done a VSC [Vir­tual Safety Car] pe­riod, but I guess they wanted to see a race. That was for sure the rea­son they did that. It was un­nec­es­sary.

“There was hardly any de­bris. We did all those laps be­hind the safety car, and it just opened up doors. In the heat of the mo­ment I am frus­trated. I did not have the ul­tra­soft tyre, and it feels weighed up against you.”

Hamil­ton spent a nerve-jan­gling four laps be­hind the safety car, and just as he did in Azer­baijan ear­lier this summer, and within his rights, bunched up the pack ahead of the re-start.

On that oc­ca­sion in Baku, Vet­tel hit Hamil­ton in the rear, and then drove along­side his ri­val be­fore bang­ing wheels. There was no such re­peat here, but Vet­tel knew pass­ing Hamil­ton at the restart would amount to his best chance of vic­tory.

Vet­tel was within cen­time­tres of Hamil­ton’s Mercedes as they sped up Eau Rouge and on to the Kem­mel Straight at 200mph. Vet­tel then dived to Hamil­ton’s left, but the Bri­tish driver placed his car in the mid­dle of the track and the Fer­rari man was un­able to find a way past at Les Combes.

It was an ex­pert piece of de­fen­sive driv­ing from Hamil­ton, which would – de­spite Vet­tel’s best ef­forts in the clos­ing stages – en­able him to win the race.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ric­cia­rdo com­pleted the podium, but there was heart­break for his team-mate Max Ver­stap­pen af­ter his Red Bull broke down in front of an es­ti­mated 80,000 trav­el­ling Dutch sup­port­ers.

There was mis­ery, too, for McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso who parked his car af­ter 27 laps with another ap­par­ent Honda en­gine failure.

It marked his sev­enth re­tire­ment of a mis­er­able year.

Du­cati’s An­drea Dovizioso won the Bri­tish Mo­toGP race at Sil­ver­stone and claimed back the lead in the cham­pi­onship stand­ings as near­est ri­val Marc Mar­quez failed to fin­ish the race be­cause of a me­chan­i­cal prob­lem.

The Ital­ian rode a pa­tient race and took over from long-time leader Valentino Rossi near the end of the 20-lap event and was able to hold off Rossi’s Mo­vis­tar Yamaha team-mate Mav­er­ick Vi­nales to take the win at the Northamp­ton­shire cir­cuit.

PIC­TURE: AP

FIGHT­ING BACK: Lewis Hamil­ton punches the air af­ter se­cur­ing vic­tory in the Bel­gian Grand Prix at Spa yes­ter­day.

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