Wednesday 25 April 2018

Hamilton relaxed ahead of low-key Texan race

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Daniel Johnson

BEFORE Lewis Hamilton’s appearance earlier this week on NBC’s Today, America’s oldest breakfast show, there was a segment with Sarah Lazarovic, a woman who has apparently gone 12 months without shopping.

Lazarovic had four minutes. Hamilton, the biggest star in the most popular motorsport on the planet, had barely 91 seconds with host Josh Elliott.

It will take the championship leader only a few more blinks to complete a lap of the spectacular Circuit of the Americas in qualifying today, a venue at which he thrives.

Widely regarded as the finest of the circuits built over the last decade, the Austin track is full of high-speed turns, not to mention ups and downs. The run to the first corner is punishingly sharp.

It is only slightly steeper than the apparent mountain Formula One has to climb in America. The sport has been steadily growing, and has found an ideal home in this surprisingly liberal Texan enclave.

But in one of downtown Austin’s many steakhouses, it still needs explaining to the staff what makes F1 different to IndyCar, or the NASCAR race taking place at the Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

If Formula One has not entirely found a home in America, then it has a naturalised resident in Hamilton, who is reportedly considering leaving Simon Fuller’s XIX Management Company and striking out on his own.

Fuller’s company negotiated Hamilton’s deal with Mercedes, which made him the richest sportsman in Britain, but those close to him concede he may eventually form his own team. But for now, he has a title to win and will consider his future more closely once the season is done.

As far as the championship goes, Hamilton is more comfortable than at any point this season. With four wins in a row, he has seized the initiative and a 17-point lead.

While team-mate Nico Rosberg is saying all the right things, many believe it will take double points or a bout of unreliability for his rival to swing the title in the German’s favour.

“It’s almost like there was a wall in front of me and I was trying to climb it, but couldn’t quite get over it,” said Hamilton. “But I’ve got over it now.”

F1’s drop to 18 cars, with Marussia and Caterham absent, has even forced the stewards to change the qualifying format. The Americans haven’t forgotten the disastrous six-car race at Indianapolis in 2005, and the sport risks more condemnation with its depleted field tomorrow. Hopefully Hamilton’s 91-second-or-so run to an expected pole position will appease the enthusiastic crowd.

© The Daily Telegraph, London

Irish Independent

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