Motor racing: Lewis Hamilton not pushing panic button as he chases Singapore GP hat-trick

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton speaks during a press conference ahead of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix night race on Sept 19, 2019.
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton speaks during a press conference ahead of the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix night race on Sept 19, 2019.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - Alarm bells are not going off even if reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton is in a mini-slump, with the race driver his usual cool self during a press conference at the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix on Thursday night (Sept 19).

The Briton is eyeing a hat-trick at the race this weekend after wins in 2017 and 2018, a feat only achieved by then Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel from 2011 to 2013.

The five-time world champion leads the drivers' championship standings after winning six of his first eight Formula One races this season, but then earned the chequered flag in only two of the next six.

He finished on the podium in the last two races, in Spa (2nd) and then Monza (3rd), but the latter also marked the first time this season the 34-year-old went successive races without a win.

Noting the threat from Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend, Hamilton is hopeful that he can bounce back and re-assert his dominance over the championship.

"We are just focusing on ourselves, trying to make sure we extract the most we can," he said at the press conference.

"We haven't really performed that well (in Singapore), particularly over the last couple of years but came out with not such bad results due to other circumstances. So I hope that we fare well."

A win on Sunday would be Hamilton's fifth in Singapore, having also won in 2009 and 2014. He is currently tied with Ferrari's Vettel for most wins - four - at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

 
 

Hamilton's cool deserted him only briefly at the press conference as he bristled when asked about the way stewards from the governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), dealt with the "hard driving" of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc at Monza two weeks ago, which saw the Monegasque driver pip him to the chequered flag in Italy.

The two engaged in a thrilling battle for the lead for much of the race, running wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions. Leclerc forced Hamilton into the run-off area once and later appeared to under-brake, but did not receive a penalty for the incidents.

FIA officials later explained that Leclerc's move went unpunished because his car did not make contact with Hamilton's.

When asked what he felt about the episode, Hamilton initially declined to answer, but when probed he said tersely: "I look forward, there's nothing I can do about the past. I'm down for hard racing."

Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo is also hoping for the Singapore race to turn his flagging fortunes around.

The Aussie has struggled to make an impact since moving from Red Bull at the start of the year and has yet to finish on the podium after 14 races. The last time he went through an entire season without one was 2013, when he drove for Red Bull's junior team Toro Rosso.

 
 

However, the Singapore Grand Prix has been a happy hunting ground for the 30-year-old - he managed four straight podium finishes from 2014 to 2017 - and the Lion City could help restart what has been a poor season for the Australian driver.

Describing Marina Bay as "fun", he said the course was "physical, hot, bumpy" but was quietly confident his Renault could do the job.

"Going back to Monaco, which is the most similar (circuit) to here, we did quite well," said Ricciardo, who finished ninth in the Principality in May.

"So I think we do have the potential to be good (in Singapore)... I definitely think we can put it together. The basis is ultimately there."