Arsenal fan Lewis Hamilton pays tribute to Arsene Wenger and pledges future to Mercedes

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Hamilton is a famous Arsenal fan.

World champion Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to Arsene Wenger and pledged his future to Mercedes on Thursday ahead of this weekend’s potentially critical Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old Briton praised the loyalty and values of the exit-bound Arsenal manager and swept aside doubts about his own future despite not yet signing a new contract. His current deal ends this year.

“I have always had great admiration for Arsene,” Gunners supporter Hamilton told reporters.

“For anyone to have commitment to a team and the loyalty which he has shown through all the ups and downs, through outside individuals saying positives and negatives, but to stay true to your values and continue to strive for what you believe in I think has really been awesome.

“Whilst the team has not always been the most successful, I really hope that he feels great about his time. I’ve had the privilege of meeting him a couple of times. He asked me to go and train with the team, which I have not managed to do yet, but he was always really welcoming and it was cool to meet ‘our team’s’ boss.

“I’ve supported Arsenal since I was five. I want to wish him all the best. I think his future is as bright as he wants it to be, so I hope he takes the positivity out of all the great experiences he’s had.”

Hamilton insisted it is only a matter of time before he re-commits to Mercedes.

“I’m fully committed to Mercedes,” he said. “I have every plan to be with the team for the future so it is really about getting on with it. We were planning to do it after the last race, but we had a lot on.

“I was not really around to meet. I had one day at the factory and then I was in China and then I was in the States. We will do it in the near future for sure, but it’s not a rush thing.”

It may be no more than a coincidence, but speculation over Hamilton’s future – due to the delays in him signing and announcing his new long-term commitment to the team – has been accompanied by a dip in form for the four-time world champion.

He has not won any of the three season-opening races, but current championship leader and fellow-four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari on Thursday dismissed suggestions that Hamilton’s form could help him take a fifth title.

“We’ve not had that many races so far, but I think he’s been as usual. He’s doing a very good job. Obviously, Australia was his weekend, but it ended up a bit different.

“Bahrain was ours and China, I’m not sure whose it was. I’m not looking at one guy that close or closer than others. I guess he’s doing a good job otherwise he wouldn’t be as successful as he’s been these last years.

“I hope to be number one challenger to whoever, but it’s a long year and at the moment it’s looking good, but it doesn’t mean anything, because it matters in the last three races, not the first three races.”

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Lewis Hamilton hoping for quick turnaround for Mercedes at Chinese Grand Prix

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Hamilton should have won at least one of the opening two races.

Lewis Hamilton on Monday admitted to concerns about Mercedes’ early-season form after seeing Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel remain unbeaten in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The 33-year-old defending four-time world champion said he had little idea how or why Ferrari had been able to out-perform his Mercedes team, Vettel claiming a tense win ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

It was the German’s second win in as many races this season and installed him as a clear favourite to beat Hamilton to become a five-time champion.

“I am thinking and wondering,” said Hamilton. “My thoughts are already on the world championship – I’ve lost two races in a row now and I am 17 points down after just two races.

“Obviously, the grid penalty was difficult to swallow here this weekend, but I think the team did a really good job.

“Hopefully, when we go to China for the next race, we will have a better understanding of the tyres and put up a better fight against Ferrari.

“Shanghai has been kind to me in the past so I am hoping I can bounce back.”

Vettel won Sunday’s race despite admitting he felt Mercedes had him in ‘check-mate’ when they adopted a one stop strategy.

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Lewis Hamilton suffers Bahrain GP blow with five-place grid penalty

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Lewis Hamilton will take a five-place grid penalty in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix following a gearbox change on his Mercedes late Friday in another early season setback for the world champion.

The British star had wound up fourth fastest earlier in Friday’s second free practice session at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen was fastest as he and Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel dominated the session ahead of the two Mercedes, headed by Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton’s setback in his bid to overhaul Vettel’s early-season lead in the title race – following his victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix – was confirmed by the International Motoring Federation (FIA), the sport’s ruling body.

Bottas also had a new gearbox fitted on Friday evening, but escaped a grid penalty because he had already been penalised in Australia.

Four-time world champion Hamilton, who created a minor controversy when he showed his approval on social media earlier in the day of the retention of grid girls at the Monaco Grand Prix, said before his penalty had been announced that it had been “a normal Friday”.

“It’s very close and we have some work to do. The tyres feel the best they have here in years, very stable with less degradation.”

Mercedes technical director James Allison said after Friday practice that the team were not as competitive in relation to Ferrari as they had been in Melbourne.

“It wasn’t our best day,” he said. “We’ve got more to do overnight and in the practice tomorrow (Saturday) to five us a car that can fight in qualifying and on Sunday.

“The base for us is ok, but we don’t have the edge we had in Melbourne.”

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