LONDON • Lewis Hamilton has taken the unusual step of volunteering his services to Pirelli to test the manufacturer's tyres in France tomorrow.
The Mercedes Formula One driver has never been afraid to admit how much he dislikes taking part in testing, but after overtaking Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship at Monza on Sunday, when he turned a seven-point deficit into a three-point advantage, he has taken on extra work to aid his pursuit of a fourth world title.
The 32-year-old Briton has struggled with the tyres in several races this season - particularly in Russia in late April when he finished in fourth place, more than 36 seconds behind race winner and team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and Monaco at the end of May, when Vettel extended his lead to 25 points - and has been unable to work out why.
Vettel, on the other hand, took part in tests at the end of last season in Abu Dhabi and Ferrari seem to have had fewer issues with getting the tyres to perform at their best in this campaign.
"Got the test later on this week which is very rare for me, I'm not a tester," Hamilton said. "I'm looking forward to it. I offered to do it. So looking forward to that. Kind of."
Hamilton will also be heading to his Mercedes team's factory in Brackley, about 120km from London, next week to talk to engineers and mechanics to ensure that the set-up of his car is exactly how they want it before heading to Singapore for the race on Sept 17.
Hamilton has led pretty much every lap of the two races since the summer break and became the first driver this season to win back-to-back races.
However, the next race in Singapore, which has more medium and low-speed corners than at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza, is expected to suit Ferrari.
Ferrari had been close to Mercedes' pace in Belgium but were surprisingly more than 30 seconds behind in Italy as Vettel finished third, one place behind Bottas.
Hamilton is tipping Ferrari as the team to beat in Singapore, which is the first of the three races in Asia, but believes that the rate of development and learning from his past two victories will stand Mercedes in good stead.
"I think the learning from these two weeks should collectively put us, hopefully, in a better position for Singapore," he said. "To be leading the championship, while it is only a couple of points, I am grateful, but by no means do I feel comfortable."
The gap between Hamilton and Vettel in Italy - 36.317 seconds - was bigger than expected and Sergio Marchionne, the Ferrari president, described the difference as "embarrassing".
Hamilton said he is determined to keep pushing and give Vettel a taste of his own medicine in Singapore. "I am going to apply myself the same as I have these past three or four races and hope I can reverse the picture because earlier in the year it was 20 points between myself and him," he said. "I want to see if he can have that feeling for a while."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS