World Cup distraction for Lewis in France
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.
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.