Hamilton downplays Vettel move

Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in action during practice at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit yesterday. He is trailing Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 14 points heading into tomorrow's Belgian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes in action during practice at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit yesterday. He is trailing Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 14 points heading into tomorrow's Belgian Grand Prix.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Briton scotches talk of Ferrari rival moving to Mercedes, where he would not get top billing

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Lewis Hamilton has wasted no time dispelling rumours that Sebastian Vettel will be joining him at Mercedes next year.

The Formula One season resumes this weekend in Belgium, where Hamilton will aim to close the gap on Ferrari's world championship leader Vettel.

Their duel was the story of the season before the summer break but Hamilton insists that there is no chance of them competing in the same Mercedes team next year, as Vettel will not get the same privileges he enjoys at Ferrari.

"I know Seb doesn't want to be my team-mate," Hamilton said. "He wouldn't be in the position he is in now in his team, in terms of how the team operates, if he was here."

Vettel's contract at Ferrari is up for renewal at the end of this year and there has been speculation that he could move to Mercedes.

But Hamilton believes that the four-time world champion would not want to work on the other side of the garage from him as Vettel would not be the de facto No. 1 driver, as he is to Kimi Raikkonen at present.

TAKING IT SLOW FOR ONCE

The main focus is on the race and that will be the same next week so I don't expect news within the next two weeks, to be honest.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, Ferrari driver, on whether there will be news of his contract renewal soon.

Ferrari have made it clear they are favouring Vettel for the title over Raikkonen, whose contract was renewed this week, a move considered to have been taken because he has accepted the No. 2 role.

As for Vettel, he warned against expectations of an announcement on his future in the next two weeks, meaning that he will go to his team's home race in Monza, a week after tomorrow's race at Spa, with no news to give expectant Ferrari fans.

"At some point I think there will be news. So let's see," the 30-year-old German said.

When pushed if it would be soon, he replied: "No news yet and the main focus now is not to focus on news, the main focus is on the race and that will be the same next week so I don't expect news within the next two weeks, to be honest."

However, the fact Ferrari have re-signed Raikkonen suggests a renewal is increasingly likely and the German welcomed the move.

"It's quite straightforward to work with Kimi," Vettel said. "I think everybody who knows him knows he's quite straightforward. He's a good match, and obviously it is great to continue like that."

Ferrari's tactics have helped Vettel to open up a 14-point lead over Hamilton. Mercedes, on the other hand, have been at pains to point out that Hamilton and his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, are free to race each other.

Hamilton did not appear to want Vettel as a team-mate, either, making it clear that he has enjoyed Bottas' arrival this year as a replacement for Nico Rosberg, who beat him to the title in an acrimonious end to last season.

"Coming into this season I haven't changed a single thing that I do, but there is another new element in the team and it works," Hamilton said.

"I don't believe any of the bosses or any of the individuals within the team is unhappy with what is in place, so I find it hard to believe they will change that."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton downplays Vettel move'. Print Edition | Subscribe