Wednesday 17 January 2018

Formula 1: Hamilton crash helps Webber increase lead

Tom Cary

Two weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton admitted he might have cost himself the championship with a reckless opening-lap manoeuvre in Italy. The McLaren driver could not even find words to express his sense of wretchedness last night after he was shunted out of Formula One's only night race following a collision with Red Bull's championship leader, Mark Webber.

After 36 largely tedious laps, Hamilton had profited from a safety car to move right up behind third-placed Webber.

Getting a run on the Australian down the long Raffles Boulevard, it looked as if Hamilton had managed to pass the Australian as the pair approached Turn Seven. But Webber, as you would expect from the championship leader, was not for giving his place up easily and made a late dart up Hamilton's inside. A clash of wheels ensued.

Hamilton came off worse.


An hour later, as Ferrari's Fernando Alonso celebrated a second successive pole-to-flag victory to move second in the title race, and Webber stretched his lead at the summit to 11 points, Hamilton was left utterly disconsolate.

"To be honest, I don't really understand the feelings I have right now," he said through glazed eyes. "I haven't seen the incident back yet. Fed up is not the right description. I'm disappointed. Upset. Gutted."

As Hamilton floundered, the television screens in McLaren's motor home began to replay the incident. Hamilton watched quietly. "And that's my race over," he said simply.

Although McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh suggested Webber might have been at fault, describing the Australian's move as similar to Hamilton's at Monza, race stewards decided not to take any action. It was the right call.

"There's nothing I can do about it," Hamilton said. "I just have to accept it. I'm not going to blame Mark. I think he was fortunate to come out of it intact. But I had to take the risk because he had made a mistake.

"He was in my blind spot and I thought I had got past. I was definitely ahead going in, that's for sure. I tried to leave a car length on the inside, just in case, and the next thing you know I got clipped."

The portents for Hamilton are not encouraging. This was his third DNF (did not finish) in four races following his gearbox failure in Hungary and the error in Monza. It leaves him 20 points adrift of Webber in third place, with just four races of the season left.

"It is not insurmountable," was the best he could manage when asked about his title chances.

Even more worryingly for McLaren, they were clearly way off the pace of both Red Bull and Ferrari. The writing was on the wall from the start.

With the anticipated afternoon showers failing to materialise, the risky run to the first corner was not nearly as risky as it might have been and the front runners reached it in race order; Alonso from Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel from Hamilton.

But almost immediately it was clear that Hamilton could not live with the pace being set by the pair in front of him.

When a safety car came out on lap three following a problem to the Force India of Antonio Liuzzi, Webber, back in fifth, gambled and dived into the pits for his mandatory change of tyres. It paid off. Re-emerging in 11th, the Australian was able to make up a number of places and when Hamilton pitted on lap 28, Webber jumped both McLaren drivers to claim third.

After surviving his brush with Hamilton, Webber also held off Jenson Button's late charge with comparative ease. "Not being able to challenge a Red Bull car that had 30 extra laps on its tyres showed us how quick they were around here today," Button noted.

At least Button had 12 points in the bank. For Hamilton, the misery was total. As he left the track, hand in hand with his girlfriend -- the Pussycat Dolls singer Nicole Scherzinger who had flown in at the eleventh hour "to surprise him" -- the mighty Singapore Flyer loomed large above the unhappy couple.

The largest Ferris wheel in the world recently had its rotational direction changed on the advice of Feng Shui masters. Hamilton certainly wasn't feeling its karma. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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