Formula One: Hamilton's penalty a fillip for Rosberg

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will take a grid penalty in Belgium for exceeding his allocation of engine components. Starting from the rear of the grid will give his team-mate and title-race rival Nico Rosberg a chance to narrow the points gap betwe
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton will take a grid penalty in Belgium for exceeding his allocation of engine components. Starting from the rear of the grid will give his team-mate and title-race rival Nico Rosberg a chance to narrow the points gap between the two.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Chance to cut 19-point title deficit as Briton's prospects diminished at Belgian Grand Prix

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (BELGIUM) • Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday's Belgian Formula One Grand Prix from near the back of the grid as the world championship leader takes a hefty grid penalty for exceeding his allocation of engine components.

After the summer break, the motor racing series resumes this weekend with Hamilton leading the driver standings by 19 points from Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes team-mate and the only realistic threat to him retaining the world championship.

However, the Briton has already used the allocation on two of his components - five turbo-chargers and five MGU-H energy recovery systems - and faces a grid penalty of up to 15 places.

Mercedes had initially said that the grid penalty would either be taken at the Belgian race or the Italian Grand Prix the following week.

Penalties in Spa - the punishment could be even greater with additional changes to parts on Hamilton's engine, meaning he could start as far back as last place on Sunday - will put Hamilton on the back foot before he even starts his engine for the run-in to the end of the season.

It will leave Rosberg with the prospect of gaining an immediate psychological advantage, as well as reducing Hamilton's 19-point lead in the world title race.

Spa, at 6.9km, is the longest circuit on the calendar, as well as one of the fastest, which plays to the strength of the all-conquering Mercedes cars.

The circuit would provide Hamilton with plenty of chances to overtake, if he was able to stay out of trouble, and emerge from the field to limit the damage by taking a podium place.

At least that would mean that he had put his damaging punishment behind him in just one race.

It is a hurdle that Hamilton will have to clear if he is to maintain his attempt to clinch a fourth world title - more than any other British driver - this season.

Nevertheless, he is not downhearted. In fact, he appears to be relishing the challenge of a difficult season in which he has managed to turn a 43-point deficit to Rosberg into a slender lead.

Speaking this week, Hamilton, who is one victory short of 50 career wins, said: "The first half of the season was a bit of a roller coaster, so it's great to be in the position I'm in with more than half of the races behind us.

"There will be more ups and downs to come but the way myself and the team have performed gives me huge confidence.

"I'm feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready to go after a fun few weeks off.

"Hopefully everyone else has had a good rest too and we'll come out fighting."

The signs remain positive too: In the past two seasons, Hamilton has been dominant in the run to the finale in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

All this means that Rosberg will have to make his mark in Belgium if he is to have a chance of breaking the Englishman's stranglehold on the sport.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton's penalty a fillip for Rosberg'. Print Edition | Subscribe