Hamilton deals with red-flag woe as Mercedes toil in testing again

By Sports Desk March 13, 2021

Lewis Hamilton endured more testing misery after beaching his Mercedes in trackside gravel at the Bahrain International Circuit on Saturday. 

The Formula One drivers' champion, who will be chasing a record eighth title this year, complained about sand in the desert on Friday. 

He said the sandstorms being whipped up were unlike anything he had ever experienced at the track, but it did not appear to be a factor in Saturday's loss of control. 

Hamilton was entering Turn 13, having completed 35 laps, when his rear end went and the car span off the track. 

The Briton attempted to drive away but his car would not move, the tyres spinning and sinking, sending up a cloud of dust. 

Hamilton got out and required a lift back to the Mercedes garage, with the session red-flagged while his car was pulled out of the gravel.

It was not the end of his session, however, with Hamilton soon back on the track. He completed 58 laps overall and was eighth quickest in the morning action, clocking a best time of one minute 33.399 seconds. 

Daniel Ricciardo's McLaren led the way in 1:32.215 while former world champion Fernando Alonso completed 60 laps in the Alpine, with 1:32.339 good enough for second on the morning timesheet.

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    Lewis Hamilton was pleased with the "small step forwards" taken by Mercedes after setting the second-fastest time in practice ahead of the British Grand Prix.

    The Briton was 0.163 seconds slower than pace-setter Carlos Sainz in FP2, while compatriot Lando Norris was third and championship leader Max Verstappen in fourth.

    Hamilton has yet to win a race this season, but he offered plenty of promise heading into a big weekend on home soil at a packed Silverstone with his performance in practice.

    However, the seven-time world champion offered a word of caution over the ongoing porpoising issue that has dominated recent races.

    "It's bouncing still, quite a bit," he said. "Not necessarily on the straights but through the corners it's pretty harsh – not physically harsh but in the car on the tyres and everything.

    "So we still have work to do but it feels like a small step forwards.

    "Our long run pace isn't as good as the other guys but it's not miles off. We've definitely made an improvement. I'm sure overnight we can work and improve the car a bit more."

    Hamilton may have endured a difficult campaign to date, lagging as he does 98 points behind leader Verstappen, but he boasts an impressive record on his home turf.

    The 37-year-old has won the British Grand Prix eight times and could become the driver to have won the most races at a single Grand Prix with victory this weekend.

    Mercedes, meanwhile, have recorded eight of the last nine wins at Silverstone, while also taking eight of the last nine poles.

    McLaren driver Norris looks good value to challenge for a second podium of 2022 after a surprising rise up the timesheets, having finished 15th last time out in Canada.

    "As good as it looked, it is still difficult to put things together and be consistent but I am happy," he said.

    "The car seems to be in a decent place, at least a little better than we were expecting."

    Friday was rather unimpressive for Red Bull's Verstappen, who has won six of the nine races this year, including five of the last six.

    But the Dutchman – who is out to surpass Valtteri Bottas and equal Rubens Barrichello as the driver with the eighth-most podiums ever (68) – is confident of finding improvement.

    "It's always a bit tricky, of course, after not driving in FP1 and then FP2 becomes a bit of guessing, let's say it like that," Verstappen said. 

    "It was maybe not ideal, but also not a big issue. I think we know what we have to work on and that's what we'll try to do overnight. 

    "But, again, tomorrow probably it's raining so you have again different kinds of conditions. This time probably was not amazing, but it was also not really bad."

  • Verstappen defends Piquet after Hamilton slur: 'He's definitely not a racist' Verstappen defends Piquet after Hamilton slur: 'He's definitely not a racist'

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    The former Formula One champion has faced backlash after an interview emerged following last season's British Grand Prix in which he was alleged to have used a racial slur in reference to Hamilton, prompting widespread criticism across the F1 paddock.

    Verstappen has condemned the comments from Piquet, which he said were "very offensive", but he defended the character of the 69-year-old, who is the father of his partner Kelly.

    "I've spent a bit of time with Nelson, and he's definitely not a racist, and he's actually a really nice and relaxed guy," he told reporters on Thursday.

    "The statement he released, you can see the word in two ways, but I think it's still better not to use it.

    "It's not only about that word, using offensive language to anyone, any colour, is not correct. That's to anyone in the world, not just to Lewis specifically.

    "I think he realised it was probably not the correct word to use, and clearly it is not.

    "It can be interpreted in two ways, and of course people pick up on the bad side and of course it gets really blown, I think, out of proportion.

    "I know Nelson personally and people of course label him as a racist now, which I don't think he is, but I fully agree that you cannot use these words."

    It has widely been reported F1 will now ban Piquet from the paddock, but Verstappen added he did not feel that would be the correct move.

    "When you ban people, you are actually not helping the situation," he said. "You're not talking.

    "You have to communicate. It's really important, because if you just ban, it's not helping what you're trying to enforce."

  • Hamilton says 'older voices' Ecclestone and Piquet should not be given a platform Hamilton says 'older voices' Ecclestone and Piquet should not be given a platform

    Lewis Hamilton has slammed Bernie Ecclestone's support of Russian President Vladimir Putin and declared he is "not with the times."

    Ex-Formula One supremo Ecclestone stated during an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday that he would "take a bullet" for “first-class person” Putin.

    When it was put to Ecclestone that thousands of innocent people have been killed in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, he replied “it wasn't intentional.”

    The 91-year-old also said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should have done more to stop the ongoing war.

    Ecclestone’s comments come during a grim week for motorsport, with Nelson Piquet having been condemned for a racist comment made about Hamilton and Red Bull axing reserve driver Juri Vips for a racial slur he used in an online streaming session.

    Ecclestone also declared seven-time F1 champion Hamilton should be "happy" that he received an apology from Piquet and ought to have "brushed aside" the Brazilian’s racist slur.

    Hamilton responded by referencing Ecclestone and Piquet as "older voices", declaring they have "nothing positive" to contribute.

    "We push for action. There needs to be some accountability. What is [the platforms'] goal? We don't need [these voices] anymore," he said during a news conference.

    "To hear it from someone who ultimately believes in the war, the killing of millions of people? I can't believe it. They have nothing positive to contribute to where we want to go.

    "I have always tried to take the higher road and be respectful. It ties back to - why do we give them a platform? They are not with the times. They are not willing to change. Microaggression in today's world is not healthy."

    Sebastian Vettel was among those who spoke out in support of Hamilton in Thursday's media session, addressing the abuse that the British driver has faced throughout his career.

    "I think it’s more than just the recent, it’s what he and his family has been through his entire life," he said.

    "The abuse was wrong and it was great to see such a response from the F1 community on the matter and towards Lewis.

    "There shouldn’t be any room for these kinds of comments. It doesn’t help when there are still these things out here and using inappropriate language. 

    "It is important to talk about it because it won’t be gone overnight and we have a responsibility to try and address these issues.

    "Kindness matters and people matter. It was bad to see what was going on."

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