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Hamilton says F1 chiefs ‘always trying to slow us’

Mercedes' Lewis Hamiltonsaid a ban, as presented this week by the FIA, was unlikely to cause serious problems for the champions. — Picture by Mark Thompson/Pool via Reuters
Mercedes' Lewis Hamiltonsaid a ban, as presented this week by the FIA, was unlikely to cause serious problems for the champions. — Picture by Mark Thompson/Pool via Reuters

BARCELONA, Aug 14 — Lewis Hamilton yesterday said Formula One was “always trying to slow” Mercedes before he brushed aside a threatened ban on their “party mode” qualifying set-up.

The world champion said a ban, as presented this week by the FIA, was unlikely to cause serious problems for the champions.

The ban plan, which could hit Mercedes’ high-speed qualifying laps, was revealed in a letter sent this week to all Formula One teams, relating to various proposed new technical and sporting rules.

The plans include a total ban on all differing engine modes, including boosting engine power and car speed for a qualifying run, to enforce the use of one mode of power unit performance throughout both qualifying and the race.

The sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), hopes to introduce the ban as soon as the Belgian Grand Prix later this month.

It is widely viewed as a bid to stop six-time champion team Mercedes from running away with the 2020 title.

They have won four of the five season-opening races, but were soundly beaten by Red Bull in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone last Sunday.

“It’s not a surprise,” said six-time world champion Hamilton.

“They’re always trying to slow us down, but it doesn’t really change a huge amount for us so it’s not a problem.”

Speaking during a video news conference ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton was upbeat about the moves and made clear he had confidence in Mercedes’ ability to maintain their speed and competitiveness.

“The guys at our team have just done such a good job with the engine,” he explained.

“It’s obviously (being done) to slow us down, but I don’t think it’s going to get the result that they want. But it’s totally fine if they do it.”

The world championship leader’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who powered to pole position at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, said he found it difficult to estimate how much any rival teams might lose from the ban of their own modes.

“It’s impossible to know, with other engine manufacturers, how much they can actually gain when they pull it all out in qualifying and if we’re actually gaining more or not,” he said.

“We are not panicking about it. If the regulation comes then it’s same for everyone.”

The Finn added that the ban on all modes may make overtaking more difficult.

“Every team obviously has different modes, how much they’’re going to risk in terms of wearing the engine and sometimes when they can — and it’s also the same for us — to save the engine,” he said.

Rivals Ferrari suggested that the ban might affect Mercedes more than other teams.

“To be honest, I don’t think it will affect us so much, so I think it can only be positive for us,” said Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.

Team-mate four-time champion Sebastian Vettel did not mention Mercedes by name, but clearly by implication, when he said: “I guess if you have something developed on your engine so that you can normally run a certain amount of mileage, with more power, or more stress on the engine, it’s probably not the best news.

“But from where we are right now, as Charles says, it doesn’t affect us.” — AFP

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