Formula One: French Grand Prix preparations set against the backdrop of England-Panama game, says Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton said even he would be keeping an eye on England's World Cup Group G game against Panama.
Lewis Hamilton said even he would be keeping an eye on England's World Cup Group G game against Panama. PHOTO: AFP

LE CASTELLET, FRANCE (REUTERS) - If Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes race engineers are not fully focused on Formula One in the hours immediately before Sunday's (June 24) French Grand Prix, blame it on the football.

The four-time world champion conceded on Thursday that even he would be trying to keep one eye on England's World Cup Group G game against Panama, which kicks off in Russia two hours before the race at Le Castellet.

Formula One has pushed back the start time specifically to avoid a clash of TV times.

"The game is on Sunday so it's going to be a little bit harder to focus on the race," the Briton, who is a point behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel after seven races, told reporters.

"The game will be on in here, I'm sure my engineers will be trying to keep an eye both things at the same time, as will I."

Hamilton, the only British driver on the current F1 starting grid, was at school with England and Manchester United wing-back Ashley Young although the two have not stayed in touch.

"I remember seeing how he was an awesome player as a kid and to watch his success as he's grown older, the ups and downs he's had, and to see someone else come from Stevenage and doing well I think is really awesome," Hamilton, a self-declared Arsenal fan, said.

"Another inspiring character, again showing that you can come from nowhere... he came from nowhere just like me, almost (from) the same street and now he's representing the country which is great."

Vettel's Ferrari engineers are unlikely to have similar distractions in the coming weeks, with Italy failing to qualify for the World Cup Finals, although the German - a keen football player - might struggle.