Sunday 19 January 2020

F1: Hamilton on top in fiery contest

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Turkish GP with his girlfriend, Pussycat Dolls singer, Nicole Scherzinger. Photo: AP
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton celebrates his victory in the Turkish GP with his girlfriend, Pussycat Dolls singer, Nicole Scherzinger. Photo: AP

Tom Cary in Istanbul

The 2010 world championship came roaring to life in Turkey yesterday in the most dramatic fashion.

Not that it wasn't breathing before, but it is now truly pulsating. Lewis Hamilton's victory from Jenson Button, McLaren's second one-two of the season, was not merely the moment when we found out that the Red Bulls can be caught and beaten -- even if it did take a hugely controversial collision between their two drivers to make it happen -- it was the moment when intra-team rivalries, hitherto suppressed, came bubbling to the surface.

And for all the talk of the Red Bull drivers falling out, with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber both incandescent after their disastrous coming together 18 laps from the end, it has to be said there was not exactly a spirit of bonhomie evident between the two Englishmen in the aftermath either. No hugs or high-fives following Hamilton's first victory of the season.

Button tried to congratulate his younger team-mate, but was initially and pointedly ignored. A well-timed pep talk from McLaren's engineering director Paddy Lowe in Hamilton's ear appeared to remind the 25-year-old of his PR duties and the pair managed to look a little cosier on the podium, although neither was exactly buzzing in the press conference afterwards.

The temporary froideur -- there is no suggestion the two have fallen out to any great extent -- stemmed from another controversial incident, this one 10 laps from the end, when Button briefly snatched the race lead from Hamilton.

Both drivers had been clearly instructed to conserve their fuel and given identical target lap times, and Hamilton said he was "surprised" to find Button suddenly behind him, the implicit suggestion being that he felt Button should also have been conserving his fuel and putting in similar lap times, rather than attempting cheeky overtaking manoeuvres.

Fortunately for Hamilton, he was able to stay right on Button's tail into the home straight, and with his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger watching on aghast in the pits, managed to slipstream the world champion into Turn One.

The paddock held its breath as for a moment it looked as if the two team-mates might take each other out -- just as Vettel and Webber had done 10 minutes before -- but, after a brief touching of wheels, Hamilton eventually prevailed.


Another, more urgent command to conserve their fuel, now apparently at a "critical level", was heeded this time and there was no more racing until the chequered flag eight laps later. It was breathless stuff.

"We don't have instructions," Hamilton said diplomatically when asked if he had felt the orders to conserve fuel were aimed at preventing racing. "We're racing. For me it was just the communication wasn't clear. When they suggested, 'save this much fuel', it was not easy to save that much fuel unless I went particularly slowly.

"I tried to reach that target and in doing so, Jenson all of a sudden just appeared from nowhere and he was up my tail." Hamilton, whose win was his first since Singapore last autumn, added that he felt Scherzinger may be a good-luck charm for him.

"Every time she comes I seem to win," he said. "I think it was Monaco 2008 she came, then Hungary last year which I won and Singapore, so she is definitely a little bit lucky for me I think."

At least he perked up towards the end. But the brief contretemps between Button and Hamilton was nothing compared with the rancour being served up at Red Bull. What a difference a couple of hours can make. As track temperatures in Istanbul soared, the pair had got off to the best start possible, Webber retaining his lead and Vettel jumping past Hamilton into second.

Hamilton reclaimed his starting position at Turn Three and thereafter an engrossing battle ensued as all four cars -- both Red Bulls and both McLarens -- remained within two seconds of each other for about 40 laps.

Vettel and Hamilton switched positions after the pit-stops on lap 15, which saw the latter suffer due to a slow wheel change, but it mattered little in the end as the Red Bulls ran each other off the road, Webber just managing to keep his car operable and salvaging third spot.

While McLaren and Red Bull appear to have forged ahead, Ferrari suffered badly on their 800th race. Fernando Alonso could only take eighth, having qualified way back in 12th, while Massa was just ahead of him in seventh.

"I hope the two points this brought me could turn out to be useful come the end of the year," said Alonso who drops to fourth in the championship, 14 points behind Webber.

"Despite everything, we are still in a good position to fight for the title. However, now is the time to react." Indeed it is. The season has come alive. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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