Formula One: Hamilton silent on crew swop

Lewis Hamilton during yesterday's first free practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. He was 0.374 seconds quicker than team-mate and world title leader Nico Rosberg.
Lewis Hamilton during yesterday's first free practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. He was 0.374 seconds quicker than team-mate and world title leader Nico Rosberg.PHOTO: REUTERS

Defending champion adopts diplomatic stance on Mercedes garage plan for 2016

ABU DHABI • Lewis Hamilton is still smarting at the decision by Mercedes to switch the mechanics working on his and team-mate Nico Rosberg's cars at the start of this Formula One season.

But, as he prepares for tomorrow's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the last race of the season that will decide which of them wins the world title, he said that he will not reveal his true feelings for a while.

After he won the world championship in 2014 and again last year, the team decided to break up Hamilton's successful crew.

Five of them, including his No. 1 mechanic, switched to Rosberg's side of the garage, while others moved in the opposite direction.

When both drivers were asked about the decision in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Hamilton said to Rosberg: "I want to hear the reason you were given."

He then added: "You have to buy my book in 10 years' time to find out exactly what happened. It will be an interesting read."

Two months ago, Hamilton suggested he was unhappy with the switch. He said: "Mechanics don't have an effect on setup. The biggest effect it can have really on the driver is psychological, but that is not something I want to go into. If something changes when it doesn't really need to be changed it can have all sorts of effects."

Mercedes justified the switch by saying that they did not want the team splitting into factions and wanted to keep it fresh.

The move appeared to benefit Rosberg, who won the first four races of the season to take a 43-point lead over his team-mate. Though Hamilton overhauled that lead, the German now has a 12-point advantage and a top-three finish will secure his first world title.

When asked the same question, Rosberg defended the decision. He said: "We have been fighting for three years. We are fighting for race wins and championships, it is quite natural that a little separation can happen between two sides of the garage.

"And that is why the decision was taken to rotate a little bit and it has shown this year that is a very, very good thing to do."

Hamilton said he will be inspired by US tennis great Serena Williams as he prepares for the title showdown with Rosberg.

Serena and her sister Venus have attended grands prix recently and Hamilton said he had been honoured to spend time with her.

"I'm absolutely mesmerised by what she has achieved and definitely inspired by her as an athlete and as a human being and so trying to learn from her. Every now and then she'll give me a bit of that magic in her words," he said.

Hamilton is doubly determined to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix title showdown after the death of close friend Aki Hintsa.

The defending three-time world champion said he felt he wanted to win in memory of the McLaren doctor and fitness expert who died last week of cancer, at the age of 58.

"I'd known Aki since 2004 and was very close to him. I was very fortunate to have been able to be there with him and his family in the last days," said Hamilton.

"I have that fighting spirit in my heart now from the last races I've done. But I come here with almost double the power now - and I feel I want to win this race more so for him."

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

F1 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

Practice 3 & qualifying Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, 5.55pm & 8.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton silent on crew swop'. Print Edition | Subscribe