Lewis Hamilton admits England's World Cup clash with Panama will be a distraction ahead of French Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton is supporting England's campaign at the World Cup.

Lewis Hamilton has admitted that England’s World Cup match against Panama immediately before the start of Sunday’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 here at the Paul Ricard circuit one point adrift of his rival Sebastian Vettel.

But the driver, bidding to beat the German to claim his fifth world championship, will have one eye on Gareth Southgate‘s team as they aim to secure their second victory in as many matches.

“The game is on Sunday 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.

Mercedes performed a late U-turn on a decision to unleash their revised power unit in Montreal which contributed to Hamilton finishing only fifth and losing his championship lead to Vettel.

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 will 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.

It emerged on Thursday that McLaren have made a bold approach for Daniel Ricciardo, but it seems highly unlikely the Australian, who has won twice this year, will trade Red Bull for the desperately under-performing British team.

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Lewis Hamilton prepared for 'painful week' after losing championship lead to Sebastian Vettel

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Disappointed: Lewis Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton is braced for a painful week after he lost his championship lead to Sebastian Vettel in Canada on Sunday.

Hamilton now trails Vettel by one point after the dominant Ferrari driver marched to victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Hamilton could finish only fifth as he was left to rue Mercedes’ failure to bring a planned engine upgrade to Montreal.

The Briton reported he was down on power in the opening exchanges, and had to pit earlier than planned as his Mercedes team made changes to his overheating machinery.

Hamilton was overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo during the pit stops, and feared his seven-race-old engine would not make it the chequered flag.

“I thought it was going to blow,” Hamilton said.

“That’s why if I’m really honest, I’m sure the next couple of days it will get more painful.

“Every single lap I was waiting for the power to just drop away and disappear – but it kept going.

“It was ultimately a poor weekend for me, but it could have been a lot worse. I could have failed to finish and lose 25 points to Vettel.”

Mercedes have dominated the sport since 2014, but the fiercer competition provided by both Ferrari and Red Bull this year has led to a series of errors by the once-dominant team.

A timing glitch during a virtual safety car period cost Hamilton the win in Australia before a gearbox issue resulted in a grid drop for the Briton at the next round in Bahrain.

Mercedes can also be accused of playing it safe when they did not bring Hamilton in for new tyres following a late safety car in China.

And here, their failure to provide Hamilton with a fresh engine has contributed to him losing the championship lead.

“This is a major wake-up call for every single member of the team,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff added on Sunday night.

“I’m the opposite of confident moving forward. Everybody needs to assess how to improve our performance.

“This year’s championship is going to be decided by the one who makes the least mistakes. This is the new reality.

“It is a three-way team fight and six cars can win races. We cannot take anything for granted and think it is going to be a walk in the park.”

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Lewis Hamilton calls for changes at Monaco GP, labels it "most boring race" of career

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Lewis Hamilton has called on Monaco’s organisers to ring the changes after lamenting Sunday’s processional affair as the “most boring race” of his career.

Daniel Ricciardo nursed his wounded Red Bull home, while Sebastian Vettel moved to within 14 points of Hamilton after finishing one place ahead of his rival in second.

Ricciardo was down on power for much of the race after engine gremlins struck with 50 laps still remaining. But the Australian never came under threat at a circuit where overtaking is, and always has been, virtually impossible.

Indeed the top six crossed the line in the order they qualified.

“Thank God that’s over,” Hamilton said on the Mercedes‘ radio at the conclusion of the Grand Prix. “That was the most boring race I’ve ever participated in.”

The Brit, 33, later said: “We were just cruising around from lap six, literally cruising, so it wasn’t really racing.

“Monaco has got the biggest build-up and it is the most special race of the year, but Formula One needs to apply a different schedule here.

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“From a racing driver’s point of view, we were never pushing. It was insane how little I was pushing. I was 10 seconds behind, but I was conflicted because in my heart I wanted to win this race, but the team just asked me to bring the car home.”

Hamilton added: “What can we do to make this one better? I spoke to Prince Albert the other day and said maybe we should make it longer. There are more roads so maybe we can change this great track and make it even better.

“Or maybe the format should change. You shouldn’t be able to do a one-stop race here. There has to be some mixed-up things. Maybe we need two races?”

Hamilton was not alone in his view, with Fernando Alonso, a former winner at Monte Carlo and double world champion, also taking aim at Sunday’s spectacle.

“This was probably the most boring race ever,” Alonso, who retired in the closing stages, said.

“The sport needs to think a little bit about the show because this is very disappointing.

“We probably need to give something to the fans at the end of the race just to pay back the ticket.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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