Title race a case of 'game on': Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton on the podium after the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, when he finished third despite starting 21st on the grid. Nico Rosberg's pole-to-flag win cut Hamilton's title lead to 10 points.
Lewis Hamilton on the podium after the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, when he finished third despite starting 21st on the grid. Nico Rosberg's pole-to-flag win cut Hamilton's title lead to 10 points.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Briton aims to repeat Italian GP victory but Rosberg says he regards Monza as 'Cup final'

LONDON • Lewis Hamilton says he is energised in his quest for a fourth world title as the Formula One teams descend on Monza, the home of this weekend's Italian Grand Prix.

"Spa (Belgium) was about as good as damage limitation can get, I think," Hamilton said. "It was a fantastic result for me and for the team.

"Now we go to Monza - a track I know well from so many racing categories throughout my career and one it's impossible not to love. I had a perfect weekend on track there last year. If I can repeat that, it would be amazing but we'll see how we look when we get there.

"It's game on for me now with the penalties out of the way and fresh engines ready to use."

His Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg, who cut Hamilton's title lead to 10 points by winning the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend, has never won in Italy.

"I'm really enjoying the battle out there right now," said Rosberg. "We've got several cars in the mix now, which is exciting for us and also the fans.

"For me, I'm taking every race like a Cup final. It's great to know you have the team and the car to just go out there and lay it on the line."

Hamilton finished third in Belgium but started in 21st place, on the back row of the grid, after being penalised 55 places for taking three new engines.

"The fight is back on as far I am concerned," he said.

"The good thing is now I have these engines, so hopefully we will see a cleaner second half of the season because it has definitely not been the easiest so far, battling for the title."

Should the championship go down to the very end, saving so many points in Belgium and winning in Hungary - when Hamilton took the title lead for the first time this year - may prove pivotal.

"I felt I got back to my comfort level in driving and I expect to take that into the next race," he said.

The overall signs are also looking good for Hamilton. In 2014, he won six of the final seven races and last year took four from five after Belgium, to win the world title three races before the end of the season.

Toto Wolff, the executive director at Mercedes, was pleased with the Spa result for both drivers, but expressed fears that Red Bull's Max Verstappen is heading for a major accident after his battle in Belgium with Kimi Raikkonen.

The pair were involved in an incident at Turn 1 but, more seriously, then clashed at Les Combes and a lap later, the Dutch teenager moved very late to block an attempted pass by Raikkonen. He has done it before, but, as previously, was not adjudged to have been at fault by the stewards.

Wolff admitted he tried to sign Verstappen before he joined the Red Bull junior programme in 2014.

"He is refreshing for me. He is a young boy I like a lot," he said. "He comes in here with no fear, no respect, puts the elbows out."

Of the title battle between his two drivers, Wolff said: "My gut feeling is we will go long into the season before we see who comes out on top."

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2016, with the headline 'Title race a case of 'game on': Hamilton'. Print Edition | Subscribe