Hamilton hoping history does not repeat itself and other talking points ahead of Malaysian GP

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The fight for the Formula One World Championship moves on to Malaysia this weekend with the race expected to be the last held at the Sepang circuit.

Dwindling support from both spectators and local government means the Malaysian Grand Prix will drop off the calendar after this year.

Ahead of the race, Press Association Sport looks at the major talking points as the season rolls on.

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

Although Japan was an established destination in the world of F1, the introduction of the malaysian Grand Prix in 1999 heralded a new dawn in the sport.

Tracks across Asia and the world sprang up in the ensuing years but few managed to follow in the footsteps of Suzuka and Fuji.

Races in Turkey, India and South Korea came and went largely unnoticed and now malaysia, with the bright lights of the Singapore night-race just down the road, is falling by the wayside.

There have been memorable moments and title-defining incidents throughout the history of the race and it would be great if Sepang could go out with a bang.

Sepang

LEWIS HOPING HISTORY DOES NOT REPEAT…

One of those title-defining memories came here last year as Lewis Hamilton suffered an engine failure while leading the race.

His Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg had collided with Sebastian Vettel at the start and fallen to the back.

Hamilton was on course to leapfrog the German in the standings before his engine gave up on lap 40. Rosberg recovered to finish third and took the drivers’ title away from Hamilton come the end of the year.

Lewis Hamilton

…BUT WILL WANT RECENT RECORD TO KEEP PLAYING

Hamilton heads to Sepang 28 points clear of closest challenger Vettel after a hat-trick of wins moved him into pole position for a fourth world title.

His victory less than 300 miles south in Singapore a fortnight ago could yet prove vital as Vettel retired following an opening-lap shunt.

A fourth straight win and Hamilton will be homing in on regaining the crown he lost to Rosberg in 2016.

Lewis Hamilton 1

NAGGING DOUBTS GROW OVER PRANCING HORSE’S TITLE CREDENTIALS

Vettel has looked like giving Hamilton a run for his money for much of the season but recent results have left him lingering.

While Hamilton heads to malaysia in fine form, Vettel has won only one of the last eight races.

The German has only made the podium in half of the races during that time and his early retirement in Singapore means he needs to come out fighting if he is to claim a fifth title.

Sebastian Vettel 4

TORO ROSSO PUT THEIR FOOT ON THE GASLY

Away from the battle at the very front of the field, it will be interesting to see how Pierre Gasly performs on his F1 debut.

The reigning GP2 champion replaces out-of-form Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso in Sepang as the 21-year-old Red Bull protege is put through his paces.

With Kvyat under pressure and Carlos Sainz departing for Renault next season, there is a permanent race-seat potentially in the offing if the Frenchman can impress.

Pierre Gasly

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Lewis Hamilton backs NFL players' choice to make political stand against Donald Trump

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Three-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has offered his support to athletes using sport to make a political stand.

United States president Donald Trump last week suggested NFL players should be sacked by their clubs if they knelt in protest during the American anthem.

Players from up and down the league have been kneeling during pre-match renditions of the Star-Spangled Banner – while the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team remained in the locker room when it was played ahead of their recent game with the Chicago Bears.

Trump recently called on team owners to fire any player involved in demonstrations and said fans should leave any stadiums where protests were witnessed.

Hamilton, Formula One’s only black driver, backed the players and said he understands where the protesters are coming from.

“I think there are opportunities all over,” he said when asked about sportsmen standing up for their rights.

“I think it is open for anyone to have freedom of speech and I guess we can all play a role in trying to make a difference in the world – particularly if your leader is not helping in that area.

“It takes for the people to try standing together and I really feel I can identify with a lot of those individuals.”

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Hamilton said he had no issue airing his personal views in public.

“Not at all, I don’t feel like I need to either,” he replied when asked if he had talked to his Mercedes team about his perspective.

“I genuinely have always had support from all of my team, I have never had any complaints from them and I don’t anticipate there to be moving forward.”

Hamilton was also questioned over recent comments that he has considered retiring from the sport.

The Briton, who is 28 points clear of nearest rival Sebastian Vettel heading into the race in Sepang, explained his thinking and ruled out staying in motorsport or taking up life as a politician in the future – despite his opinion on those defending their views.

“It is just evaluating where you are in life and I was just being very open about things I have contemplated,” he said.

“Of course, I still contemplate about decisions over my future, the longer I delay my departure from the sport, the longer my next life is delayed. It is just trying to weigh-up the balances but at the moment I am here to stay.

“I hate politics. I don’t have the greatest understanding of it and I absolutely hate politics.

“I can’t see that I will (stay in motorsport). There is no other racing series that I have any desire to drive in, it is a shame, I wish I did have more passion in me to do IndyCar or Le Mans but there isn’t, there is zero, nothing.”

Hamilton’s engine failure here last season remains his only retirement across the last 30 races.

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Malaysian GP: Sebastian Vettel vows not to change despite Singapore crash

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A defiant Sebastian Vettel vowed Thursday not to change the way he drives despite his first-lap exit in Singapore as he prepares for Sunday’s last-ever Malaysian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s Ferrari started from pole but was involved in a crash at the start that also took out team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on a rain-soaked Marina Bay Circuit.

It allowed Lewis Hamilton, who avoided the carnage to win from fifth on the grid, to extend his championship lead from a slender three points to 28.

“I’m not too fussed about the amount of points,” Vettel told reporters at the Sepang International Circuit.

“Obviously it’s never good to be behind, we’d like to be in front, but we’re not, so we’ve got to take it from there.

“Overall it doesn’t change anything for how we tackle the last six races.”

Vettel was exonerated of blame for the Singapore crash by stewards, but many observers felt the German four-time world champion was at fault as he had forced Verstappen towards Raikkonen.

But Vettel said that he hadn’t given the crash much thought since because it was just “part of racing”.

“I think it would have been more difficult if I had lost the car somewhere in the race, then it’s obviously different,” he said.

“The lights went off, we did our start. Everyone was trying to do his start and with the way it happened it ended up really bad for all of us. There’s not much you can do. I think it’s part of racing.

Vettel's crash in Singapore has left him playing catch-up in the title race.

Vettel’s crash in Singapore has left him playing catch-up in the title race.

“It certainly didn’t help Lewis scored a lot of points but that’s the way it goes. What’s done is done.

“It’s not the first time I’m in the situation like this and probably will not be the last time — not that I’m hoping for it to happen again.”

Raikkonen said there was no point in dwelling on what happened and that Ferrari could still take plenty of positives from Singapore.

“In Singapore Sebastian was first and I was fourth in qualifying so if you compare it with Mercedes we were better,” Raikkonen said. “Then we basically didn’t race.”

KIMI WON’T MISS MALAYSIA

Hamilton qualified only fifth and team-mate Valtteri Bottas sixth on the grid in Singapore.

Verstappen, who was sandwiched between the two Ferraris, was reluctant to talk about the crash.

“It happened. You can’t change it. We try again,” said Verstappen.

Sunday will see the final running of the Sepang race after the Malaysian government announced it would not continue to fund the $67 million annual cost of staging the grand prix.

Raikkonen recorded his first victory at the circuit in 2003 but in typically unsentimental fashion said he wasn’t upset to see the race disappear from the calendar.

“To be honest I don’t know if we’re going to miss it,” the Finn told reporters.

“It’s a nice circuit,” he continued, “but the only thing you see is the airport, the hotel next to the airport and the circuit. You can choose from that what you’re going to miss, or not.”​

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