Formula One: Hamilton fired up and focused for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton leaving his car after flames appeared at the back of his Mercedes following engine failure during the Malaysia Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton leaving his car after flames appeared at the back of his Mercedes following engine failure during the Malaysia Grand Prix.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • Even before Lewis Hamilton hitched a lift to Japan on Niki Lauda's private plane early on Monday morning, his bitter frustrations over events in Malaysia had eased.

The British Formula One driver had shown dominance over all his rivals - his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg included - over the race weekend in Kuala Lumpur, only to see his engine blow up 15 laps from what would have been a thoroughly deserved race win.

He had appeared to be accusing Mercedes of sabotage when he said after Sunday's race "something or someone doesn't want me to win this year".

His anger was understandable. Victory would have seen him re-establish a lead over Rosberg in the World Championship; instead Rosberg finished third and moved 23 points ahead, edging closer to his first drivers' title.

But later, and after a few deep breaths, Hamilton sounded a little more pragmatic.

Could he pick himself up for this Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix?

"You forget I am world champion so I should be all right," he smiled. "I will find strength from within to come to these next races.

"I have been through a lot of these experiences and I am pretty strong already. We will learn.

"The guys will take the engine back and understand why."

The situation reminds him of the start of the season, when Rosberg won the first four races on his way to building up a 43-point lead. Hamilton wiped out that advantage with six wins in seven races.

"We had the problems in the first part of the season and we had the feeling that it was slipping through our fingers and there was nothing we could do about it. Then we had a splurge of good results," he said.

"And then a bunch of difficult results and this similar kind of feeling that I had back in Barcelona. I have no idea what is going to happen in these next five races. All I can do is what I have done this weekend.

"Come correct, be as focused as I can possibly be, put in the performances that I have this weekend and pray that the car still holds together. I still have faith and hope and that is a powerful thing."

After last Sunday's race, social media was soon full of lurid suggestions that Mercedes were "fixing things". That, of course, is preposterous. What about Rosberg's gearbox problems at Silverstone in July and his difficulties in 2014?

Rosberg himself said: "I understand very well how Lewis feels now because I've been there in my career. It feels horrible and I'm sure he is extremely gutted, especially when you deserve to win a race."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton fired up and focused for Japanese Grand Prix'. Print Edition | Subscribe