Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
MERCEDES IN COMFORT ZONE, BUT HAMILTON WARY OF THREATS TO HIS CROWN
Lewis Hamilton returns to the scene of a memorable triumph in pursuit of a record-equalling third Turkish Grand Prix win this weekend, but wary of more than one threat to his world championship crown.
Eleven months on from a spectacular victory for Mercedes in treacherous rainhit conditions that secured him his seventh drivers’ title with three races remaining, the 36-year-old Briton is this year only two points ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with seven to go.
That knife-edge advantage offers him little protection and he knows also that he may face a grid penalty if forced to take a fresh power unit, as the Dutchman did two weekends ago in Russia, for a contest likely to be run in similarly wet weather.
Last year’s event was the first at Istanbul Park for nine years and was run on a newly resurfaced and very slippery track that, like Sochi last month, conspired to deliver a high degree of jeopardy and drama.
On both occasions, Hamilton used his experience and racecraft to overcome inauspicious circumstances and deliver stunning victories rewarded by drawing level with Michael Schumacher’s title tally and posting an unprecedented 100th F1 triumph. His goals this Sunday will be more prosaic as he seeks to beat Verstappen and protect, or extend, his advantage in their enthralling title scrap and to avoid a third collision between them following their crashes at Silverstone and Monza.
Verstappen, by contrast, seeks to erase the memory of a dismal race last year when after qualifying on the front row, he spun and flat-spotted his tyres on the way to sixth, his worst finish of the season.
“It wasn’t the best weekend for us, as a team,” he said. “But I think it will be quite different circumstances this year -- the track should be more ‘grippy’ and there will be a lot for us all to learn.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff conceded that it was “possible” that Hamilton would have a new fourth engine of the season and a grid penalty for Sunday’s race, but stressed his squad were in a very positive mood. “Working with Honda has been a pleasure. They are super motivated every single race and super-passionate to deliver the best they can.” After his last-gasp disappointment at Sochi, where he missed out on a maiden victory by staying out on slicks in the rain while leading, Lando Norris will bid to consolidate his and Mclaren’s progress with another solid outing at a venue where Ferrari have been the most successful team.
But with rain forecast to arrive for Saturday and Sunday, it is difficult for anyone to make reliable plans or predictions.