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Hamilton ahead but still focused on catching up

BUDAPEST  – Lewis Hamilton leads Formula One into the August break by a healthy margin but, despite winning from pole position in Hungary on Sunday, the champion feels Mercedes still have some catching up to do.

Ferrari had looked favourites for victory at the Hungaroring but could not show their true race pace after Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas made the most of a wet qualifying on Saturday.

The circuit is famously difficult for overtaking and Bottas, however much it pained him to be told, proved an excellent ‘wingman’ in keeping the Ferraris behind while Hamilton built a buffer.

Hamilton, now 24 points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after 12 of the 21 races, will head off on holiday a happy man but also recognising he is in a different kind of fight this year compared to 2017

“This year we all know that Ferrari really do have the upper hand pace-wise,” said the Briton after his fifth win of the campaign.

“But to win a championship is not just about speed, it’s about how you manage things, the strategy calls you make, mistakes, all these different things weigh up.”

While Mercedes have made some glaring strategy mistakes, Vettel has made more errors in the heat of battle than his rival.


The Briton has now won six times in Hungary, more than any driver, but has yet to do so and take the title in the same season.

There is still plenty of work to do if he is to break that streak, even if Hamilton is well ahead of where he was this time last year when he went into the August shutdown 14 points adrift of Vettel.

“We’ve got things to improve, we’ve got performance to bring moving forwards. We’ve got to try and catch them,” said Hamilton of Ferrari’s perceived pace advantage.

“But we’ve got to continue to keep rising with all the other elements, which allows us to beat the Ferraris when they don’t bring their A game.”

The second half of the season has been good for Hamilton in the past, with the Briton coming back strongly last year to clinch his fourth title.

He rejected a suggestion that he had a couple of fingers on a fifth already, however.

“Absolutely not. I think it’s far too early and you’ve seen the ups and downs we’ve had from this year, you’ve been ahead by some points and behind some points,” he said.

“A lot can happen moving forwards but what’s really important is that we continue to keep up the pressure and keep working as we have done until now. There’s nothing we really need to alter.

“It’s important to capitalise on those difficult weekends such as this and I think that’s really been a key strength of ours this year,” he added.

Belgium is next up, followed by Italy, and Hamilton won both of those last year. But before then he can enjoy a few weeks of down time.

“Now it’s holiday, I’m going to meet my mum and my sister and niece and nephew tonight and I’ll spend the next four or five days with them,” he said on Sunday.

“It’s not too often I get to do family holidays so that’s something I’m looking forward to.”

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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FP2: Hamilton quickest in second practice

World champion Lewis Hamilton set the pace under the floodlights in Abu Dhabi as he looks to end his season on a high after missing the podium in the last two races.

Hamilton has never won a race after wrapping up a world title and will be looking to end that record at a track where he has had great success in the past.

Winner of the last round in Brazil, Sebastian Vettel, was second in practice, maintaining his good pace that he showed in the first practice session where he topped the time sheets. The Red Bulls also seem to have a chance of victory on Sunday, with Daniel Ricciardo improving on his underwhelming performance from FP1 to go third and only three tenths from Lewis Hamilton.

The rest of the usual top six cars all filled out their usual spots with Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, with all of them looking to improve going into qualifying and the race to get closer to the likes of Lewis Hamilton and challenging for the win.

The two Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon continued their trend of being best of the midfield pack in seventh and eighth and after securing their joint best ever position in the constructors championship and best ever points tally, the pressure is rather off the team this weekend.

The pressure is on for Nico Hulkenberg however and the Renault team in the battle for sixth place in the constructors and ninth place in the time sheets is an encouraging sign for the team, who need five points to overhaul Toro Rosso in the championship, whilst defending from Haas who are two points behind the team.

The McLaren’s of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne continued their impressive pace from first practice in tenth and twelfth respectively and will be looking to end the miserable McLaren Honda era on a high and in the points. The Williams of Felipe Massa split the Mclaren’s and will be looking for a good end to his F1 career, whilst teammate Stroll will be looking to stake a claim to team leader going into next season.

The other cars in the battle for sixth place in the constructors all populated the lower end of the field, with both Toro Rosso’s both Haas’ and Carlos Sainz all lower than they would have hoped to be, populating five of the last eight spots on the time sheet.

Toro Rosso will be hoping to end the season as quickly as possible after only scoring one point in the last five races, although should be more competitive on Saturday and Sunday after Gasly didnt set a representative time on the ultra soft tyres, but still managed 15th in the session beating both Haas cars.

The Sauber’s of Ericsson and Wehrlein will be driving for their careers this weekend, as the two seats are two of only three seats left available for next season along with the second Williams seat, will be looking to impress this weekend, regardless of the competitiveness of the car, which could only allow 17th and 18th for the two drivers.

24 November 2017 – Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi – Free practice 2
Driver Team Time Difference #
1. GB Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.877 38
2. DE Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:38.026 +0.149 36
3. AU Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:38.180 +0.303 33
4. FI Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:38.352 +0.475 34
5. FI Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:38.537 +0.660 33
6. NL Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:38.894 +1.017 33
7. MX Sergio Perez Force India 1:39.323 +1.446 32
8. FR Esteban Ocon Force India 1:39.333 +1.456 35
9. DE Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:39.529 +1.652 40
10. ES Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:39.559 +1.682 27
11. BR Felipe Massa Williams 1:39.635 +1.758 35
12. BE Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:39.671 +1.794 30
13. ES Carlos Sainz jr Renault 1:40.201 +2.324 37
14. CA Lance Stroll Williams 1:40.329 +2.452 29
15. FR Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:40.694 +2.817 38
16. DK Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1:41.128 +3.251 30
17. DE Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:41.270 +3.393 42
18. SE Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:41.302 +3.425 39
19. NZ Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:41.496 +3.619 38
20. FR Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:41.560 +3.683 12



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Hamilton calls for improved security after Mercedes minibus robbed at gunpoint

Lewis Hamilton has called for Formula One bosses to take action after members of the Mercedes team were attacked ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

The incident came after Hamilton was fastest in both practice sessions in Sao Paulo on Friday, twice finishing just ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton, who secured his fourth World Championship title in the last race in Mexico, revealed his team were leaving the Interlagos circuit when they were confronted in an incident which bore similarities to when Jenson Button and his McLaren colleagues were attacked in 2010.

Mercedes also confirmed that a minibus was robbed at gunpoint and valuables had been stolen but that everyone had escaped “safe and uninjured”.

In a series of Twitter posts, the Briton called on the sport’s governing body and the teams to do more to protect their staff in the future.

“Some of my team were held up at gun point last night leaving the circuit here in Brazil,” he posted.

“Gun shots fired, gun held at ones head. This is so upsetting to hear. Please say a prayer for my guys who are here as professionals today even if shaken.

“This happens every single year here. F1 and the teams need to do more, there’s no excuse.”

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Hamilton and Vettel collide in Mexican GP start

MEXICO CITY- Sebastian Vettel’s hopes of denying Lewis Hamilton a fourth Formula One world championship suffered a huge blow on Sunday when the title rivals collided at the start of the Mexican Grand Prix and dropped to the back of the field.

Ferrari’s Vettel, who started on pole, needs to score 16 points more than his Mercedes rival to keep the title fight open to the next round in Brazil.

That means the German has to finish in the top two, a seemingly impossible task with Red Bull’s Dutch 20-year-old Max Verstappen leading into the first corner and 43 seconds ahead of Vettel after 10 laps.

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was in second place with Force India’s Esteban Ocon third.

Verstappen seized the lead with an aggressive move into the first corner, bumping wheels with Vettel, with Hamilton also trying to pass Vettel.

The Ferrari’s front wing hit Hamilton’s rear right tyre, puncturing it.

“Did he hit me deliberately,” asked Hamilton over the team radio. “Not sure, Lewis,” was the reply.

Vettel pitted for a new wing while Hamilton, who is 66 points clear of his rival with 50 to be won after Mexico, also came in for a change of tyres while mechanics inspected the car for any further damage.

Stewards decided no further investigation of the incident was necessary.

(Alan Baldwin)

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Hamilton fastest in U.S. Grand Prix practice

AUSTIN, Texas- Formula One title favourite Lewis Hamilton led the way in first free practice at the U.S. Grand Prix on Friday with a lap half a second faster than his closest rival Sebastian Vettel’s best effort.

The Mercedes driver, who can secure a fourth championship on Sunday if results go his way, lapped a soggy Circuit of the Americas in a time of one minute 36.335 seconds on the supersoft tyres.

Ferrari’s Vettel, who is 59 points adrift of the Briton with four races remaining, was the second fastest man on track in 1:36.928.

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was third with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, a new contract through to 2020 freshly signed, in fourth.

McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne was an eye-catching fifth for the struggling former champions, but team mate Fernando Alonso failed to set a timed lap due to a hydraulic leak that kept mechanics busy.

Hamilton, who has won all but one of the five races since the August break, is clear favourite to win again on Sunday at a circuit where he has been triumphant four times in the last five years.

He will have to finish first or second on Sunday, and hope Vettel has a nightmare for the fourth race in a row, to prevent the championship fight remaining open to the next round in Mexico.

While much of the attention was on the title rivals, Spaniard Carlos Sainz and New Zealand debutant Brendon Hartley also caught the eye with strong performances.

Sainz, moving to Renault from Toro Rosso in place of the dropped Briton Jolyon Palmer, was 10th and immediately quicker than established German team mate Nico Hulkenberg in 13th.

Hartley, who will have a 25-place grid penalty for his debut, stepped into a single seater for the first time since 2012 and looked at home straight away with the 14th best time of the morning.

That was 2.932 seconds off Hamilton’s pace.

The Le Mans 24 Hours winner did more laps (28) than anybody and was also 1.2 seconds quicker than Indonesian Sean Gelael, replacing Russian Daniil Kvyat for first practice only.

Rain before the session started left drivers lapping on a drying track.

(Alan Baldwin)

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F1 Raceweek: Hamilton on the brink, but Vettel has American pace – United States GP in numbers

The Formula One title could be won in Austin this weekend and a look back at previous races promises an enthralling tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton currently leads the German by 59 points at the top of the drivers’ standings and extending that to anything beyond 75 would be enough for the Mercedes man to clinch a fourth world crown.

The Briton has a good record in the US GP, too, but Vettel also has a reputation for being rapid Stateside.

Here we take a look at the numbers behind the 17th round of the F1 season.

10 – The United States is the country that has used the most different F1 circuits in the history of the sport (10).

152 – The US is also the country that has supplied the most drivers in F1 history (152) but only two of them have raced in the last 24 years (Scott Speed and Alexander Rossi).

4 – Hamilton has won four of the five races in Austin, while Sebastian Vettel won the other (2013).

6 – If Hamilton wins, he will become the F1 driver with the most wins in the US (six), surpassing Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna (five each).

17 – Only Schumacher (17) has won more times than Hamilton (13) on the American continent in F1 history.

4 – Vettel is the driver with the most fastest laps at the US GP (4).

118 – Hamilton has won four of the last five races (second in the other in Malaysia), earning 118 points from a possible 125.

21 – Hamilton is enjoying his best run of consecutive races when picking up points (21), only bettered in F1 history by four drivers: Kimi Raikkonen (27), Michael Schumacher (24) and Fernando Alonso (23).

4 – Hamilton is the only F1 driver to have won at least eight races in four consecutive seasons (2014-17) and, alongside Ayrton Senna (1988-1990), he is also the only driver to have been on pole 10 times in a season in three consecutive campaigns (2015-2017).

4 – If both Mercedes drivers make the podium in Austin, the team will be the constructors’ champions for the fourth season in a row.

3 – Ferrari are enduring their worst podium-less run of the season (three races in a row).

1 – Hamilton could win the 2017 championship if he wins and Vettel finishes sixth or worse; or if he finishes second and Vettel is ninth or worse and Bottas doesn’t win the race.

4 – If Hamilton wins this F1 drivers’ championship, he would be the British driver with the most F1 titles (4) and would equal Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost in titles, with only Michael Schumacher (7) and Juan Manuel Fangio (5) with more.

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Lewis Hamilton says that he does not have one hand on the 2017 world championship title following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton won the race, keeping his lead from lights out to victory and is now 59 points clear in the standings.

Vettel was forced to retire with an engine issue, which also hampered his qualifying efforts last week at Malaysia. Hamilton now sits as the clear favourite but is refusing to get too confident at the top, stating that there are still a lot of points available.

“I wouldn’t say I have one hand on it,” he said. “There are still 100 points available. I’m still going to keep the pedal to the metal. Of course, he’s been very unfortunate through no fault of his own. These engines are so complex, but all I can really say is my guys do such a phenomenal job.

“They are just so meticulous, and so faultless with their procedures and procedures that go on back at the factory. So a big thank you to everyone back at the factory, both Brixworth and Brackley do an amazing job and I hope I’m making them proud.”

Speaking about the race itself, Hamilton admitted that the second half of the Grand Prix was much tougher than the first. With only a handful of laps remaining, Max Verstappen closed down on Hamilton, but couldn’t find a way past the Briton.

“For the first half of the race it was very, very well under control. But the second half of the race was a lot harder. Tyres, balance of the car, traffic we were getting a lot of the time. Then with the Virtual Safety Car, which I did a good job under, the front tyres weren’t working so I had massive understeer.

“Then all of a sudden he [Verstappen] was on me,” the 32-year-old continued. “He looked so big in my mirrors but really grateful the car stuck together and I didn’t make any mistakes. I’m really proud of that.”

(Fergal Walsh)

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Rosberg praises Hamilton after record breaking qualifying

Nico Rosberg has hailed former teammate Lewis Hamilton after the Brit took his first ever pole position at Suzuka – breaking the lap record at the same time.

The Brit will start Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at the very front after setting a time of 1:27.319.

Rosberg, who joins Sky F1 as a pundit for this weekend, beat Hamilton to pole position in the three years as teammates in the hybrid era. Following Hamilton’s dazzling lap on Saturday afternoon in Japan, Rosberg was left applauding his ex-rival.

“He’s one of the best of all-time in qualifying so it’s always going to be difficult to beat him. His natural speed is just immense. The run after the summer was really important for me [referring to his championship winning season] and Lewis has that run at the moment. He has the momentum completely on his side and it’s totally against Sebastian at the moment.”

With Vettel starting alongside Hamilton, Rosberg thinks that Ferrari could give the Silver Arrows a headache in the race tomorrow: “Sebastian is starting from second and all it takes is a good start – he can win the race,” he said. “For anybody to beat Lewis you have to take advantage of the opportunities you get. That’s what I was trying to do last year and it worked quite well and that’s what Sebastian has to do this year.”

Speaking about a potential return to motorsport racing, Rosberg commented: “Let’s see – it’s not the plan at the moment. But if you tell me tomorrow that I can have a day or half a day in the cars they are driving now then for sure I would have fun.”

(Fergal Walsh)

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Hamilton on pole for Malaysian GP, Vettel to start last

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his 70th career pole position around the Sepang International Circuit. The Brit’s fastest time was a 1:30.076. Sebastian Vettel, whose championship hopes took a hit in Singapore, suffered another blow as an engine problem halted his running in Q1.

Vettel will start the race from the back of the grid and will be hoping for a hectic race in order to make his way to the front of the grid in tomorrow’s Grand Prix. Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start the race from second position and will be hoping he can give Hamilton a hard time during Sunday’s race.

Max Verstappen ended the day in third place, once again ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Both men will share the second row of the grid, with Verstappen wrapping up the teammate qualifying battle for the 2017 season.

Valtteri Bottas once again failed to match the pace of his teammate, and will start from fifth on the grid. The Finn’s fastest time was almost seven-tenths of a second down on Hamilton. Joining Bottas on the third row will be Esteban Ocon in the Force India.

Stoffel Vandoorne qualified in a career-best seventh place, while teammate Fernando Alonso could only manage tenth. Alonso is running with upgraded aerodynamics this weekend in Malaysia, while Vandoorne is set to receive the upgrades in Japan next weekend.

Nico Hulkenberg kept his consistent display of qualifying performances up, and will start tomorrow’s race from eighth on the grid. He heads former teammate Sergio Perez who will line-up in ninth position.


As the track went green, the Sauber of Pascal Wehrlein was the first driver to take to the track, followed by Romain Grosjean. Hamilton was the first of the front-runners to come out, equipped with the soft compound.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was next out, also wearing the soft compound. Both Ferrari’s emerged with the same, yellow-walled soft tyre, but Ricciardo decided to use the softest of the compounds available, the super softs.

Hamilton set a lap time of 1:21.3, which was quickly beaten by Raikkonen by one-tenth of a second. Bottas’ time put him just behind his teammate and into third place. Ferrari then grew concerned when Vettel reported that he had lost drive, and for the second time today, he limped back to the pits.

The issue was deemed to be terminal and Vettel’s day was over, meaning it was confirmed he would start at the back of the field. A number of drivers improved on their final laps, with Palmer, Hulkenberg, Massa and Gasly all making leaps to ensure they got into the second stage of qualifying.

Drivers out in Q1: Grosjean, Magnussen, Wehrlein, Ericsson & Vettel


Going into Q2, the battle looked set to be as tight as ever between the teams around the edge of the top 10, who were looking extremely close, with the gap between the cars fighting for the top ten only around three-tenths in Q1.

In the first runs it was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to go quickest of all the drivers, further compounding the disappointment of Vettel not being able to run at all in qualifying. Verstappen impressed, showing the good pace that the team has shown throughout practice to put the car second after the initial runs, with the Mercedes cars just behind him.

The teams on the bubble looked to be the Toro Rosso drivers who were bringing up the rear after the first runs. The Williams of Lance Stroll also looking to be in danger a number of positions away from his teammate after the first runs.

With the first two staying in the pits after their runs, it left the door open for Valtteri Bottas to claim the fastest lap for the session, with Hamilton and Ricciardo not improving their position. Perez and Vandoorne improving enough on their second runs to get out of Q2 after previously being in the drop zone after their first runs, and subsequently kicking out Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Massa.

Drivers out in Q2: Massa, Palmer, Stroll, Sainz & Gasly


Nobody rushed to the end of the pitlane when the track went green for the final time in qualifying. Eventually, the two Mercedes’ and Raikkonen headed out onto the track to contest in a battle for pole position and the point of most advantage for the Grand Prix.

Bottas crossed the line first to set a 1:30.9, which was then bet by Hamilton, who set a spectacular time of 1:30.0. His fellow competitors couldn’t match the pace, with Red Bull slipping away in the final laps due to insufficient engine power.

Nobody could challenge Hamilton’s time on the second runs, which left the Brit to take yet another pole position. Mercedes will be relieved after the disastrous Friday it suffered, and have an opportunity to further extend its gap to Ferrari tomorrow.

Fergal Walsh & Sam Gal

30 September 2017 – Grand Prix of Malaysia – Qualifying
Driver Team Time Difference
1. GB Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30.076
2. FI Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:30.121 +0.045
3. NL Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:30.541 +0.465
4. AU Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:30.595 +0.519
5. FI Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.758 +0.682
6. FR Esteban Ocon Force India 1:31.478 +1.402
7. BE Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:31.582 +1.506
8. DE Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:31.607 +1.531
9. MX Sergio Perez Force India 1:31.658 +1.582
10. ES Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:31.704 +1.628
11. BR Felipe Massa Williams 1:32.034 +1.958
12. GB Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:32.100 +2.024
13. CA Lance Stroll Williams 1:32.307 +2.231
14. ES Carlos Sainz jr Toro Rosso 1:32.402 +2.326
15. FR Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:32.558 +2.482
16. FR Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:33.308 +3.232
17. DK Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1:33.434 +3.358
18. DE Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:33.483 +3.407
19. SE Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:33.970 +3.894
20. DE Sebastian Vettel Ferrari no time


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Hamilton takes big step towards fourth title

SINGAPORE- Lewis Hamilton took a huge stride towards his fourth Formula One title on Sunday by winning an incident-packed Singapore Grand Prix after Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out at the start.

The Mercedes driver now has a 28-point cushion over the German with six of the 20 races remaining.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also emerged from the opening lap carnage unscathed, was second for the third year in a row with Finland’s Valtteri Bottas completing the podium for Mercedes.

“God blessed me today for sure,” said Hamilton, who set a lap record on his way to a third win in a row, as he spoke from the podium on a night where everything fell into his lap.

“I came here today really thinking it was about damage limitation, and we’ve come out ahead. So I’m very grateful,” he said later.

“To come to a track that was potentially our weakest circuit, and come away with a win like this and those points, it’s really such a fortunate scenario…so I definitely have a skip in my step.”

The Briton cashed in after Vettel, Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s front row contender Max Verstappen smashed into each other as they raced off the wet starting grid and into the first corner.

Raikkonen had made a storming start from fourth, Vettel a less impressive one from pole position while Verstappen went for the middle ground and was caught in a Ferrari sandwich as they converged.
(Abhishek Takle)