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Hamilton seeks to extend F1 lead in new Euro GP

Hamilton seeks to extend F1 lead in new Euro GP

The Formula One championship is tighter, forcing teams to take more risks and that _ according to McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton _ is why the season has been so unpredictable.
"We're all pushing very hard," the 23-year-old Briton said Thursday, a day before official practice begins for the European Grand Prix on the new Valencia city circuit. "It's a closer season than it was last year. Teams are perhaps pushing more to the edge and that's when you see the mistakes.
"This year, there's lots of opportunities to make mistakes and there's lots of unknowns."
The European GP marks the return of Formula One after a three-week break following the Hungarian Grand Prix, where a shredded tire reduced Hamilton to a fifth-place finish.
That left him with 62 points in the drivers' championship, five ahead of defending champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari _ who was third in Budapest _ and eight in front of Ferrari's Felipe Massa.
Hamilton blamed the tire on misfortune.
"For me it was tire defect, tire failure, just one of those things," he said. "It was a little bit unfortunate, but I don't they really think (team engineers) found the exact cause of it."
Hamilton said he was eager to race on the circuit's newest track.
"They've done a fantastic job in doing the place up. The track looks incredible," said Hamilton, who was runner-up to Raikkonen in 2007, his debut season.
"I think it looks pretty awesome, so I'm looking forward to getting out on it tomorrow," he added.
Ferrari, with five victories this season, lead the constructors' standings with 111 points. McLaren, which has also won five, including the past three, has 100 points. BMW Sauber has one victory and 90 points.
Valencia's new circuit is a 5.44-kilometer (3.38-mile) loop, with plenty of room to pass.
The race is the first of two street circuit premieres this season. The second will be Singapore's night race in September.
The newness of the course has left no opportunity for testing, and drivers were eager to take the traditional circuit walk-around Thursday and first practice sessions Friday.
"It's pretty impressive and interesting," Massa said. "It's a different track to what we're used to. There are some corners like in Monaco but there some very different corners and some straights similar to Bahrain.
"I think it (the track) will very, very dirty tomorrow and we can see that it is very, very slippery," he added.
Massa said he wants to forget about how his engine problem cost him the Hungarian GP and a chance to lead the overall standings.
"We need to look forward to the next seven races and know that we still have 70 points in front of us," the 27-year-old Brazilian said.
"For sure when you look back it would have been a great moment to win the last race but sometimes this sport is like that," he added, stressing that the team "showed great performance, good speed, good base. I think we showed that we are there."
BMW Sauber's pair, Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, are fourth and fifth in the drivers' standings, and seeking to end the team's recent slide.
Kubica, who won the Canadian Grand Prix in June but hasn't finished higher than fifth since, has 49 points. Heidfeld, who has been runner-up three times this season including twice in the past five races but has also finished 10th and 13th in the same span, has 41.
Sunday's race will see two-time world champion Fernando Alonso on home territory for a second time this season following the Spanish Grand Prix.
Alonso, who is eighth with 18 points, said Thursday the Valencia race had had a cloud cast over it by the airplane crash a day earlier in Madrid that left 153 dead. He said he hoped race organizers might hold a tribute to the victims.
Meanwhile, Honda driver Rubens Barrichello was candid about rumors of a possible move by the Spanish driver to his team, which could upset him.
"I think the team is definitely talking to Fernando. That's the question mark," said the 36-year-old Brazilian veteran who lies 12th in the standings with 11 points.
"I've never been so enthusiastic about my whole situation with the team. I left Ferrari because I didn't have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. At Honda, I have that freedom and I still didn't have the car to perform and I'm waiting for that chance."
"Conversations are there," he added. "I'm talking to the team. I'm talking to all the teams I want to be racing."


Updated : 2021-03-02 13:44 GMT+08:00