Formula One: Hamilton feeling the pressure

Austrian GP victor Valtteri Bottas (left) winding down with Daniel Ricciardo, who came third, over champagne on the podium. The Finn is driving himself into contention for the drivers' championship.
Austrian GP victor Valtteri Bottas (left) winding down with Daniel Ricciardo, who came third, over champagne on the podium. The Finn is driving himself into contention for the drivers' championship.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Briton now has to look over his shoulder at Bottas, while Vettel widens lead in standings

SPIELBERG (Austria) • Lewis Hamilton says his disappointment at finishing fourth at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, despite an impressive recovery drive from eighth on the grid, was a reflection of the intensity of his battle for the Formula One world championship.

His Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas won the race at the Red Bull Ring while his main rival Sebastian Vettel was second, extending the German's lead in the title race.

Hamilton took a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change before qualifying and, although he came through the pack, he was visibly unhappy with the result.

The Mercedes driver (151 points) now trails Ferrari's Vettel by 20 points, with Bottas 15 behind him.

Hamilton acknowledged that Bottas is increasingly involved in a three-way fight for the title.

"You train, you sacrifice everything to make sure you get the best result possible," he said. "So, when you don't, when you don't personally deliver and other things are stacked up against you, it's hard to come out smiling.

"Because that means you don't care enough. The fact is I care more than I need to."

GAP WIDENING EVER SO SLIGHTLY

Still got a long, long way to go, it could easily, within one race, switch. But the bigger that gap gets, the more pressure builds.''

LEWIS HAMILTON, Mercedes driver, on the 20-point difference between him and championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

SECOND IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH

I feel like I could have won and I didn't, so I am not entirely happy. At the beginning of the race I was just not quick enough.''

VETTEL, Ferrari driver, is not pleased at finishing second.

He has recently endured poor luck that has hampered his efforts to secure a fourth world championship. At the last round in Azerbaijan, a loose headrest cost him a likely win and last weekend he suffered a brake failure in practice and the forced gearbox change.

These are problems the Briton can ill-afford given that he faces competition from Ferrari as well as his team-mate, and the three-time champion acknowledged that he needed to come back strongly at the next round - the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday.

"This is an intense battle which I'm loving and I think we are loving as a team, but I want to win this championship," he said.

"Right now I'm 20 points behind. I don't have a crystal ball, but it doesn't look great at the moment. Still got a long, long way to go, it could easily, within one race, switch.

"But the bigger that gap gets, the more pressure builds."

Vettel has been able to exert pressure since the beginning of the season when the Ferrari proved it is a match for the Mercedes in race pace. He too was disappointed at not being able to convert his second place on the grid into a victory.

"I feel like I could have won and I didn't, so I am not entirely happy," he said. "At the beginning of the race I was just not quick enough.

"The pace was there, but the balance wasn't."

The Ferrari has generally proved straightforward to set up this season and the team will expect a return to form at Silverstone.

The Mercedes executive director, Toto Wolff, insisted the team were not considering team orders yet, with Bottas now in the championship battle.

"Like we have handled it in the past," he said. "With the difference that dynamics between the drivers are completely different.

"For Lewis it was actually the best outcome that Valtteri won the race rather than Sebastian.

"We are not even half-time and we start counting points."

He also joined the growing debate over whether drivers should take penalties for technical problems beyond their control, something which was raised repeatedly over the weekend in Austria.

"I think we need a certain freedom and I don't think the drivers should be penalised too much for problems with the car but you can't let it get out of control," he said.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline 'Hamilton feels the pressure'. Print Edition | Subscribe