Hamilton remains driven

Lewis Hamilton before last month's Hungarian Grand Prix, where he started from pole but finished sixth. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg to be relentless in their push to dominate rivals.
Lewis Hamilton before last month's Hungarian Grand Prix, where he started from pole but finished sixth. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg to be relentless in their push to dominate rivals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Reigning champion keen to atone for sub-par Hungarian GP, wants to win on Belgium's historic track

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton has vowed to reinforce his status as world champion with a return to winning ways at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.

The Briton slipped to what he described as one of the worst performances of his career last time out in Hungary, before Formula One took a summer break.

The world champion headed for Barbados, where he partied with pop star Rihanna, to relax and reflect on events in Budapest, where pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix became sixth place.

That could have cost him the lead in the championship.

But he was saved by an equally poor performance from Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team-mate and the only realistic rival for the title, who finished eighth.

Hamilton leads Rosberg by 21 points heading to the famous SpaFrancorchamps circuit - the scene of last season's collision with Rosberg - that many drivers believe is one of the greatest of all F1 tracks.

"It has been good to take a break from racing and spend some time relaxing, training and recharging the batteries," Hamilton said.

"There is always that flame in the back of your mind that just wants to get back out there - especially after a race like Hungary.

"Spa is a great track to kick off the second part of the season too. It is one of the really great, old-school circuits with so much history. It's mostly medium- to high-speed corners so you are pretty much pedal to the metal the whole way round, which is a lot of fun.

"It is always special to come out on top at a classic race like this so I remember winning here well.

"I love this track and I'll be gunning for that top spot again."

Hamilton last won at Spa in 2010 but Mercedes' head of motorsport Toto Wolff has warned both his drivers against complacency. "Any slip is an opportunity our rivals will grab with both hands," he said.

Hungary was a golden opportunity squandered by Rosberg. The German was battling for victory with his compatriot Sebastian Vettel before he collided with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages, and he crossed the line eighth.

Rosberg, who took Hamilton to the final race of last season, knows that he has not performed consistently this year.

He wants to stamp his authority on the final nine races.

"Hungary was a big disappointment and I've been itching to get back to racing ever since," he said.

"When you're in such a close battle for the championship, any opportunity to gain points is crucial and it's up to me to take those chances - but also to make them for myself.

"That's definitely the target for the second half of the year.

"We're only halfway through the season so it's all still to play for. Spa is a fantastic circuit - a track that I think every driver enjoys and one that always produces spectacular racing. I'm looking forward to it."

Mercedes have won eight of the 10 races so far this season and have 383 points - 147 clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings, with Williams in third on 151 points.

Yet, Wolff, mindful of the result in Hungary and last year's coming-together at Spa, insists neither the drivers' nor the constructors' title races are foregone conclusions.

He said: "With nine races to go, we enter the second half of the season with a stronger points total than at this stage last year, and yet our margin to the competition is actually smaller.

"There is never a moment you can take your foot off the gas and Hungary proved once again that any slip is an opportunity our rivals will grab with both hands.

"There are still many chances to win or lose this battle and we must be relentless in our push to come out on top."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'HAMILTON REMAINS DRIVEN'. Print Edition | Subscribe