Lewis Hamilton hungry to secure his fifth world championship

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Lewis Hamilton is “hungry, focused and completely determined” to secure his fifth world championship, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said.

Hamilton, who will head into Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix holding a 50-point lead over Sebastian Vettel with just 125 remaining, appeared alongside Wolff at Mercedes’ headquarters in Brackley on Monday.

The pair addressed the team’s workforce less than 24 hours after Hamilton’s win in Russia which edged the Brit ever closer to another title triumph.

While controversy surrounded Hamilton’s victory in Sochi, after Valtteri Bottas was ordered to step aside for his Mercedes team-mate, he has won five of the last six rounds.

“Lewis was in Brackley this week and is hungry, focused and completely determined to succeed,” Austrian Wolff said.

“It has been great to see the power he has brought to this championship, and how he has taken it to the next level since the summer break.”

Mercedes held the advantage over Ferrari in Sochi to take another step to winning an impressive fifth consecutive constructors’ championship.

The Silver Arrows have not been beaten at Suzuka, the venue for this week’s race, since 2013.

But Wolff added: “We left Sochi with a bigger lead in both championships, but we know that doesn’t mean anything because our fight with Ferrari is far from being over.

“We can take nothing for granted and we will stay at maximum attack on every front in the next races. The battle with Ferrari remains extremely close.

“Suzuka will be another challenging weekend for us. It’s a track that shows some similarities to Silverstone, where we didn’t perform as strongly this year as we had done in previous seasons.

“So we’re going to Japan knowing that we all have to be at our very best if we want to claim the win.”

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Toto Wolff happy to play the "baddie" after Lewis Hamilton's controversial Russia win

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is happy to be the villain after standing by his controversial decision to orchestrate Lewis Hamilton‘s Russian Grand Prix victory on Sunday.

Hamilton will head into the concluding five rounds of the season with a 50-point lead over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel following his win at the Sochi Autodrom.

The 33-year-old Briton was running behind Valtteri Bottas before Mercedes ordered the Finn to move aside at the midway point.

To Mercedes’ credit, they have rarely used team orders, and only did so here fearing that Hamilton would be exposed to Vettel, thus denying Bottas his opening win of the year.

Hamilton gained an extra seven points meaning he can now afford to finish second at the final races and still claim his fifth world championship.

“At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri’s race over the championship,” Wolff said.

Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton.

Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton.

“Somebody needs to be the baddie and it’s me today.

“You need to weigh it up. To be the baddie on Sunday evening, for many right reasons, or be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. I’d rather be the baddie today.”

Hamilton was a reluctant winner, and chose not to celebrate his 70th career victory. This type of gift-wrapped win is not his style.

He immediately sought to console Bottas, and then invited his team-mate to join him on the top step of the podium. Hamilton even appeared to suggest to the deflated Finn that he should lift the winners’ trophy in front of the watching Russian president Vladimir Putin, who arrived for the final laps of the race.

“It doesn’t feel great,” Hamilton said. “I definitely don’t think I have finished first in my career, and felt the way that I do right now.

“Only time will tell if it was necessary, but if we were to lose the championship by one point, would you look back at this race and think we should have worked as a team?

“We are a team, and the team want to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, so that is why the bosses took the decision.”

Bottas, who started Sunday’s race 110 points behind Hamilton and out of championship contention, had pleaded to switch positions back with his team-mate shortly before the chequered flag, but his request was denied.

“Lewis is fighting for the championship and I am not so from the team’s point of view it was the ideal result, but maybe not ideal for me,” Bottas said.

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Lewis Hamilton 'not feeling great' despite winning Russian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton with Bottas

Lewis Hamilton stood by Mercedes‘ decision to manufacture his controversial win in Russia that takes him ever closer to a fifth world championship.

Hamilton will head into the final five rounds with an almost uncatchable 50-point lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after team-mate Valtteri Bottas was ordered out of his way at the Sochi Autodrom.

Bottas was in complete control of the race only for Mercedes to instruct him to step aside with 30 laps remaining.

To the absolute credit of Mercedes, they have avoided using team orders in their recent history, but with Vettel still in striking range of Hamilton, they adopted a change of tact here, denying Bottas his first win of 2018 and handing their star driver seven extra, and potentially, critical points.

Hamilton was a reluctant winner, and chose not to celebrate. Instead, he immediately sought to console Bottas.

This type of victory is not Hamilton’s style. Instead, he invited Bottas to join him on the top step of the podium, and even appeared to suggest to the deflated Finn that he should lift the winners’ trophy in front of the watching Russian president Vladimir Putin, who arrived for the concluding laps.

Bottas stared vacantly as the national anthems were played, and the mood had eased little by the time both Mercedes drivers appeared alongside Vettel for the post-race press conference.

“It doesn’t feel great,” Hamilton said. “I definitely don’t think I have finished first in my career, and feel the way that I do right now.

“Only time will tell if it was necessary, but if we were to lose the championship by one point, would you look back at this race and think we should have worked as a team?


“We are a team, and the team want to win both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, so that is why the bosses took the decision.”

Toto Wolff, team principal for the Silver Arrows, admitted it was an agonising decision, and one which led to him enduring a restless night on Saturday after Bottas beat Hamilton to pole.

Team orders were regular practice for Ferrari during Michael Schumacher’s commanding era. Some, rather harshly, compared this result to the farce of Austria in 2002 when Rubens Barrichello was instructed to move out of Schumacher’s way on the final lap.

Such was the uproar, that it resulted in a ban on team orders which Ferrari breached when they ordered Felipe Massa aside for Fernando Alonso in Germany in 2010.

At the end of that year, the ban was lifted. Unlike on both those occasions, Bottas, 110 points behind Hamilton before Sunday’s race, stood no chance of winning the title.

“At the end, if five points or three points are missing then you are the biggest idiot on the planet by prioritising Valtteri’s race over the championship,” Wolff said.

“Somebody needs to be the baddie and it’s me today. You need to weigh it up. To be the baddie on Sunday evening, for many right reasons, or be the idiot in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season. I’d rather be the baddie today.”

Bottas was leading after he held off Hamilton and Vettel on the opening-lap drag race to turn two. Hamilton was slow out of his starting blocks, but kept Vettel at bay only to fall behind the German when he stopped for tyres.

The strategy error provoked a furious reaction from Wolff, who smashed his fist on a table as he watched on from the Mercedes garage. Hamilton took less than two laps to pass Vettel, but damaged his tyres in the process.

Mercedes feared the damage would leave him exposed, so on lap 23, Bottas’ race engineer, Tony Ross, delivered the bad news. “You need to let Lewis by into turn 13 of this lap,” he said.

Bottas slowed down, moved to the right, and Hamilton took the position before cruising to a victory that leaves him on the brink of his fourth championship in five years with only 125 points to play for.

Kimi Raikkonen finished fourth, while Max Verstappen drove spectacularly from 19th to fifth on his 21st birthday.

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