Jeez, give me a break: Hamilton

World championship leader Lewis Hamilton signing autographs for fans at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, north-east of Budapest, on Thursday. The Mercedes driver leads Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 17 points.
World championship leader Lewis Hamilton signing autographs for fans at the Hungaroring circuit in Mogyorod, north-east of Budapest, on Thursday. The Mercedes driver leads Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel by 17 points.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Mercedes star hits back at Villeneuve's claim of posturing; says he deserves more respect

BUDAPEST • Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton yesterday accused his critics of disrespect after finding himself being compared to Jesus and feeling undervalued by experts.

Speaking to reporters ahead of this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, which he has won a record five times, the defending world champion suggested he sometimes deserves more praise, as demonstrated in last Sunday's rain-hit German Grand Prix.

In that race, the Briton delivered a masterclass in the wet conditions in his Mercedes to win from 14th on the grid as many, including fellow four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari, slithered off the track.

But, when he watched on television that evening, Hamilton was astonished by the lack of praise from former F1 drivers working as pundits , after he had moved from eight points adrift of Vettel to 17 ahead of the German in the championship.

"I watched a race that felt so great in my heart on the track, but there were certain things that were not being perceived that way," he said.

"There was a point where I was three seconds a lap quicker than the other drivers. The difference that I was making in the car and the different lines I was choosing were not explained."

Meanwhile, 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, now a pundit with Sky Italia, told German magazine Auto Bild that Hamilton "confuses Formula One with Hollywood".

RAMPING UP THE PRESSURE

This year is closer than last year, the smallest mistakes are even more costly. It is the most intense battle; we are racing a team who are faster than us this year.

LEWIS HAMILTON, on the intensity of the world championship battle this year.

"Everything he does is staged," said the Canadian. "He portrays himself on social media like he is Jesus. The way he knelt next to his car after his problem in qualifying (in Germany) looked like the suffering of Christ.

"And what he said afterwards was the Sermon on the Mount. Then he gestured so dramatically on the podium that everyone could see who sent the sudden rain."

But Hamilton insisted that he will not let anyone rain on his parade, saying the intensity of the title fight with 31-year-old Vettel is spurring him on.

"I can honestly say not every weekend I have hit the nail on the head," the 33-year-old Briton said.

"You have big setbacks like qualifying in the last race. It depends how strong you are, like tennis players who miss the first serve but ace the second one.

"The pressures are huge this year, the demands and desires of the drivers, myself and Sebastian, are higher than ever, and the pressure is higher than ever.

"That does not faze me. I am excited by it, I have always felt that I am at my best when under pressure. I welcome the pressure."

He is aware that Ferrari may well have the advantage this weekend in Mogyorod, where Vettel has won two of the past three races and where Mercedes have struggled in the turbo-hybrid era, although Hamilton did win here in 2016.

In Hungary, Ferrari have the edge in terms of engine power and straight-line speed. Hamilton admitted he believed Ferrari had the edge and that he would have to be at the top of his game.

"This year is closer than last year, the smallest mistakes are even more costly," he said. "It is the most intense battle; we are racing a team who are faster than us this year.

"Last year, we were quite balanced but this year, it is swinging more in their direction, so we are having to over-deliver on weekends. The pressure to extract absolutely every millimetre, every ounce is greater than ever if I want to be No. 1 again."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

F1 HUNGARIAN GP

Practice 3 & qualifying Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 5.55pm & 8.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Jeez, give me a break: Hamilton'. Print Edition | Subscribe