Hamil­ton look­ing for fast re­sponse to China

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - PHILIP DUN­CAN SPORTS REPORTER ■ Email: yp.sport@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

LEWIS HAMIL­TON has ad­mit­ted that his hopes of seal­ing a fifth world cham­pi­onship are in grave dan­ger as his win­less start to the new sea­son con­tin­ued.

Hamil­ton re­duced the deficit to leader Se­bas­tian Vet­tel in their ti­tle bat­tle to only nine points af­ter Max Ver­stap­pen’s col­li­sion with the Fer­rari driver dur­ing Sun­day’s fre­netic Chinese Grand Prix.

But – af­ter dominating prac­tice on Fri­day – Hamil­ton and his Mercedes car have sub­se­quently been well off the pace at a cir­cuit where they have ruled in re­cent sea­sons.

Hamil­ton could not get his rear tyres to work in the cold con­di­tions in qual­i­fy­ing, but there was still no im­prove­ment in his form on Sun­day despite the warmer tem­per­a­tures.

The 33-year-old English­man was the hot favourite to beat Vet­tel to this year’s ti­tle, but he now be­lieves that his once-dom­i­nant Mercedes team are be­hind Fer- rari and in­deed Red Bull in the peck­ing or­der.

“Who knows what this sea­son holds, but if it con­tin­ues this way it is go­ing to be very tough to win the cham­pi­onship,” Hamil­ton said.

“We un­der­per­formed in qual­i­fy­ing and the race was a dis­as­ter on my side of the garage. I need to try and rec­tify that and get my­self back into a nor­mal per­for­mance.

“It has not changed my think­ing about the sea­son, and my goals are ob­vi­ously still the same, but it is clear from this week­end that we are not the quick­est.

“We are the sec­ond or third fastest team at the mo­ment so we have got some im­prov­ing to do, but that is not im­pos­si­ble.”

Hamil­ton started fourth on the grid and lost one place off the start line. He was then sit­ting in fourth, af­ter mov­ing ahead of Kimi Raikko­nen, be­fore Red Bull’s in­spired pit-stop call paved the way for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo to win.

Hamil­ton, 33, felt he should have been called in for fresh rub­ber, too, but Mercedes – not pre­dict­ing how fast Ric­cia­rdo and Ver­stap­pen would be on their new tyres – felt track po­si­tion would be of greater im­por­tance.

And the Bri­tish driver, who is due in Mercedes’ Brack­ley fac­tory on Thurs­day, has now called on his team to raise their game in or­der to claw their way back into the cham­pi­onship fight.

“I have got to keep con­struc­tive pres­sure on the guys but they’re al­ready pres­sured,” Hamil­ton added.

“They want to win just as much as the rest of us and it is about work­ing as a team.

“I’ve got to take it upon my­self to try and fig­ure out what has gone wrong and move for­ward, but of course it is a joint ef­fort and def­i­nitely on my side we have strug­gled more.

“I feel I was on top of my game. I came to this race and pre­pared ex­actly the same as al­ways, but I (was) just un­com­fort­able in the car.”

Despite Ric­cia­rdo’s win, it was the ag­gres­sive tac­tics de­ployed by his hot-headed team-mate Ver­stap­pen which dom­i­nated the pad­dock dis­course for a sec­ond week­end in suc­ces­sion.

Seven days ago in Bahrain, Ver­stap­pen col­lided with Hamil­ton, but in Shang­hai, it was the Brit’s cham­pi­onship ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel who would feel the full force of the bril­liant, yet ex­u­ber­ant Dutch­man.

“It was com­pletely Max’s fault,” said Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ non- ex­ec­u­tive chair­man and three­time world cham­pion.

“When you com­pete in more races you should get more clever – espe­cially when you want to win or chal­lenge for the cham­pi­onship – but he is go­ing the other way. He needs to sort him­self out. No­body can help him.”

Ver­stap­pen may be only 20, but he has started 63 grands prix and is a three-time win­ner. This is his fourth sea­son. “He is not young,” Lauda added. “He is old in For­mula 1 now so he is like ev­ery­body else. It is not nec­es­sary be­cause it hurts him as well.”

We are the sec­ond or third fastest team at the mo­ment...

Lewis Hamil­ton un­happy with the per­for­mance of his Mercedes car.

JUMP­ING FOR JOY: Red Bull driver Daniel Ric­cia­rdo leaps off his car af­ter win­ning the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shang­hai In­ter­na­tional Cir­cuit.

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