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Ruthless Hamilton leaves rivals 'counting sheep'

China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-07 09:43
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Lewis Hamilton will again be the man to beat this weekend as the Formula 1 championship continues with the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone. The Mercedes ace triumphed on the same circuit last weekend (pictured) to move within four victories of Michael Schumacher's all-time win record. REUTERS

Lewis Hamilton returns to Silverstone this weekend knowing he faces another "serious challenge" with even softer tires and hotter conditions for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix than those he overcame on his way to a dramatic triumph in last Sunday's British GP.

Just days after his victory on three working wheels, and one that was damaged and punctured, the championship leader and sixtime world champion is braced for a similarly testing weekend with temperatures of up to 36 Celsius forecast and tire supplier Pirelli switching to a less-durable compound.

Even so, Hamilton's Red Bull rival Max Verstappen reckons he could be left "counting sheep" again this weekend in the face of the Briton's domination.

"One step softer is going to be a challenge for us all and, no doubt, will move us all to at least a twostop (strategy)," said Hamilton in the aftermath of his 87th grand prix triumph.

"Obviously, our cars are a lot quicker this year, but we're using the same tires as last year. "They (Pirelli) weren't able to develop a better tire to deal with the forces for this season so it's going to be a really serious challenge."

Hamilton's heroics in bringing his damaged car home to win by five seconds ahead of Verstappen have already gone down in F1 folklore as he moved 30 points clear of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the driver standings.

"I think we cannot take anything away from Lewis, who I think is one of the greatest drivers in F1 history," proclaimed Charles Leclerc.

"Always very constant, always 100 percent, mentally very strong," he told Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"There is nothing else to say. Mercedes and him-that combination, of these two elements, makes it so difficult to compete with them right now."

This weekend's race will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the inaugural world championship race, held at Silverstone in 1950-an event that saw Italian Giuseppe Farina victorious in the first of three triumphant Alfa Romeo cars.

Juan-Manuel Fangio, who was to be a five-time champion, led briefly but failed to finish in his Alfa Romeo after rupturing an oil pipe.

This allowed Luigi Fagioli to come second ahead of Briton Reg Parnell, who hit a hare during the race.

Such hazards are unlikely this weekend, but after last Sunday's three tire failures in the closing laps-Bottas and McLaren's Carlos Sainz were also hit by delamination and punctures-more unexpected incidents cannot be discounted.

"The hotter conditions brought the field closer together last week and the softer tires will mean more pit stops and more variability with strategy this time, so we can expect a good fight," warned Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

Lewis Hamilton will again be the man to beat this weekend as the Formula 1 championship continues with the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone. The Mercedes ace triumphed on the same circuit last weekend (pictured) to move within four victories of Michael Schumacher's all-time win record. REUTERS

Record chase

After completing a hat-trick of successive wins in this coronavirus-hit season and extending his record of consecutive points finishes to 37,Hamilton will start as favorite again as he bids to draw level with Michael Schumacher's record of 155 podium finishes.

If he wins, he will be within three victories of Schumacher's record of 91 as he bids to progress to a seventh title and draw level with another Schumacher record total.

Like Leclerc, Verstappen has already suggested that Hamilton is unassailable in the title race, giving only Bottas a chance of staying in contention, following Mercedes' four wins out of four this year.

"So I will be counting sheep again," Verstappen joked, when he looked ahead to his prospects of following the two Mercedes in this weekend's race.

"You have to be realistic," he said."You can dream. You can hope. But I think it is more important to be realistic because that's how you can move forward."

Leclerc, who finished third last weekend to move up to fifth in the title race, 55 points adrift of Hamilton, echoed the sentiment.

"If the question is 'can anybody stop Lewis?' Then, no. I think the guy that has some chances is Valtteri, but that's it," the Ferrari driver said.

Like the Dutchman, Nico Hulkenberg will hope for better fortune this weekend as he prepares for a likely second opportunity as a stand-in for Racing Point's Sergio Perez. Last Sunday, the German failed to start the British GP after testing positive for COVID-19.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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