Friday 23 March 2018

More bad luck for Lewis as Hungary hopes go up in smoke

A dejected Lewis Hamilton has to abandon his burning Mercedes after it caught fire during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix
A dejected Lewis Hamilton has to abandon his burning Mercedes after it caught fire during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix

Daniel Johnson

Luckless Lewis Hamilton's bid for a fifth pole position in Hungary literally went up in flames as his car caught fire early in qualifying. Just minutes in to the session at the Hungaroring, Hamilton's Mercedes was ablaze at the rear, and although he attempted to crawl back to the garage, it proved a futile exercise.

Hamilton was forced to stop on the pit lane entry road, where marshals quickly used extinguishers to douse the fire, started by what Mercedes claimed to be a fuel leak. As the Briton looked on, and even though the visor was down on his helmet, you could sense his bitter pain and disappointment as he shook his head disconsolately before trudging away.

It was yet another brutal blow for Hamilton in his bid to overhaul Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in the battle for the Formula One world title.

In the build-up to this race, Hamilton had spoken of his desire to enjoy a clean weekend without his errors on one hand, and unreliability on the other. But the 29-year-old must now feel like this may not be his year given the run of wretched luck he has endured this campaign.

In a season when Mercedes are dominant - when their cars do finish a race they are either first or second - Hamilton has so far suffered two DNFs (did not finish) to the one for Rosberg. That has played a key role in the 14-point gap between the pair ahead of today's race. A poor run in qualifying has also been instrumental, with Hamilton making mistakes in Canada and Austria to deny himself pole.

There was an error of judgment at Silverstone, but Hamilton produced a masterful drive to take the British Grand Prix chequered flag. But for these last two races, and in the space of eight days, the Englishman has been hit by rotten misfortune.

At Hockenheim a week ago, a right-front brake disc failure 
resulted in Hamilton's car hurtling into a tyre barrier.

Starting from 20th on the grid, as he also had to take a five-place penalty for a gearbox change given the damage sustained, he again pulled out a stunning drive to claim third behind Rosberg. Hockenheim, however, affords a driver opportunities to overtake, but not the Hungaroring, where it is notoriously difficult to pass.

Although Hamilton has won four times at the circuit, a fifth is not in the offing as he will now likely start from the pit lane, given the team will have to work on his fire-damaged car all through the night.

A forlorn Hamilton, who had been quickest through all three practice sessions, said: "I bailed out of that timed lap I was doing and I was like 'I'm going to try and do the second lap'. Then something happened to my brakes. Something on the brake system failed, so I had to engage some settings to try and correct it, then the engines died.

"I then thought 'I am right next to the pit entry so I will roll back and get them to fix it', but then I looked in my mirrors and it was on fire. I was hoping to get it in neutral so I could push it back or something.

"I was still trying to get it to the garage and maybe they could do something, but they said 'stop, stop, stop' so I tried to stop, but the brakes weren't working. The car kept running forward. The engine was working sometimes and sometimes not working, so it is all pretty bad.

"I think it's getting to the point beyond bad luck - it's something else. We just need to do better."

As for his hopes for the race, Hamilton added: "We'll have to replace the engine and gearbox (which incur penalties).

"But with those it's a good thing - I can't go any further back (on the grid).

"There's a lot going through my mind, but I just have to try to turn it into positives.

"I honestly don't know what I can do tomorrow. This is a track where you cannot overtake, so I think I will struggle to get in the top 10 or at least the top five.

"I will probably leave here more than 20 points behind Nico, but there are still races to go. I don't know what to say, I will try my best."

Sunday Indo Sport

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