World Cup dis­trac­tion for Lewis in France

Sunday Times - - Sport | Cricket/Rugby -

Lewis Hamil­ton has ad­mit­ted that Eng­land’s World Cup match against Panama im­me­di­ately be­fore the start of to­day’s French Grand Prix is a dis­trac­tion he will be un­able to re­sist.

Eng­land’s group game with the Cen­tral Amer­i­cans will con­clude just 20 min­utes be­fore the lights go out on For­mula One’s first re­turn to France since 2008.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Hamil­ton, 33, heads into the race at the Paul Ri­card cir­cuit one point adrift of his ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

But the driver, bid­ding to beat the Ger­man to his fifth world cham­pi­onship, will have one eye on Gareth South­gate’s team.

Proud to be a Brit

“The game is on Sun­day [to­day] so it is go­ing to be a lit­tle bit harder to fo­cus on the race be­cause I will be watch­ing,” Hamil­ton said. “It will be on tele­vi­sion in the Mercedes hos­pi­tal­ity suite, and I am sure my engi­neers are go­ing to keep an eye on it.

“When­ever the World Cup comes around you are hop­ing for some­thing spe­cial. It has not been great for us in my life­time, but Eng­land de­serves to win the World Cup at some stage.

“I feel like I am very pa­tri­otic, and proud to be a Brit. To be the one rais­ing the flag, hope­fully against the Ger­man flag, just like we are hop­ing the Eng­land foot­ball team does against Ger­many, is an honour and a priv­i­lege.”

Hamil­ton’s Mercedes team were sec­ond best to Fer­rari at the last round in Canada a fort­night ago, and the English­man does not know whether Mercedes will be able to push ahead with their planned en­gine up­grade this week­end.

Tiny mar­gins

While Hamil­ton will have a fresh en­gine here, his Mercedes team would not clar­ify whether their lat­est spec­i­fi­ca­tion power unit will be in­tro­duced.

De­spite Hamil­ton putting a brave face on it, Mercedes’ fail­ure to do so could leave the Brit at a dis­ad­van­tage with both Fer­rari and Red Bull, who are pow­ered by Re­nault, al­ready on their sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion en­gines.

“The cham­pi­onship is all about tiny mar­gins,” Hamil­ton added. “I don’t know what the team have planned for me.

“The fresher en­gine this week­end will be great as it will have more power than the one I used at the last race. I trust the team, and if we have to use the older-spec­i­fi­ca­tion en­gine, I am not wor­ried.”

Hamil­ton, out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son, is edg­ing closer to signing a new Mercedes’ deal, but Fer­nando Alonso’s fu­ture at McLaren re­mains un­cer­tain.

The Spa­niard, 36, com­pleted the sec­ond leg in his pur­suit of mo­tor rac­ing’s Triple Crown with vic­tory at Le Mans last week­end, but was coy on whether he will stay in F1 next sea­son.

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