Lewis Hamilton heads to Hockenheim for this week’s German Grand Prix eight points adrift of title rival Sebastian Vettel.
Ferrari driver Vettel won last time out at Silverstone, while Hamilton recovered from last to finish second at his home race.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the key talking points ahead of the 11th round of the Formula One World Championship.
How will Hamilton react in Germany?
Hamilton turned in a remarkable fightback from last to second at the British Grand Prix, but his comeback display was tainted by accusations of Ferrari cheating. Kimi Raikkonen bumped Hamilton off on the opening lap, and the Brit was left seething. “Interesting tactics from their (Ferrari) side”, Hamilton mused as he appeared to point at foul play by Ferrari. Raikkonen’s wife Minttu then got involved, suggesting Hamilton was “crying like a girl”, and urged him to take up ballet. Hamilton, concerned that he was coming across as a sore loser, apologised for his remarks, and said sorry to Raikkonen, too, in a series of emotional Instagram messages on the Monday following his home race. Since then, Hamilton has been in Iceland, Holland and in London, too, but this week will head to Mercedes’ home race in Germany hoping to wipe the slate clean after two disappointing races, and get his championship bid back on track.
Mercedes making too many mistakes
Hamilton won the French Grand Prix to move 14 points clear of Vettel, but a Mercedes strategy error then cost him the lead at the following round in Austria before a mechanical retirement ensured he scored zero points. Hamilton’s poor start at Silverstone also left him exposed to Raikkonen, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits that his team are making too many errors. “We didn’t score as many points in the triple-header as we had hoped for,” Wolff said. “A lot of that was down to our own mistakes. We’ve had a decent first half of the season but on the one hand, we’ve left points on the table and had to do damage limitation more often than we would have wanted.” Ferrari took 98 points from F1’s triple-header, compared to Mercedes’ haul of 61. Mercedes now trail Ferrari by 20 points in the constructors’ championship, too. Make no mistake, the pressure is on the sport’s once dominant team.
Alonso makes his point
F1’s American owners Liberty Media have floated the idea of awarding points from first place to last rather than only for the top 10 finishers. The idea is to encourage competition up and down the field, and to make every position count. For decades, points were awarded to the top six, which then became the top eight in 2002. From 2010, the top 10 have been rewarded. But double world champion Alonso fears finishing in the points will be diminished under the proposed change. “If everyone is scoring points, then maybe we lose that unique thing in F1 that other categories do not have,” he said. “I remember when Jules (Bianchi) scored the ninth position in Monaco, it was some kind of miracle and a big moment for the sport.”
Doubts over future of the German GP
The German Grand Prix has been held on alternative seasons since 2014 – it will not be on the calendar next year – and the contract expires after Sunday’s race. Mercedes may have been the dominant force in recent years, while Vettel is bidding for a fifth title, but both have failed to capture the imagination of the German public in the same vein that Michael Schumacher managed to. Max Verstappen’s army of Dutch fans will descend on Hockenheim to ensure the grand prix could be a sell-out on Sunday. But it appears a real possibility that the German race is not part of Liberty’s long-term vision, and could be dropped permanently to make room for fresh locations.
Giovinazzi lands practice drive
Ferrari junior driver Antonio Giovinazzi will take to the Sauber cockpit for opening practice on Friday. Giovinazzi, 24, will replace regular driver Marcus Ericsson. With Charles Leclerc mooted for a promotion to Ferrari next year, this could be the first of a series of chances for Giovinazzi to prove he can make the step up to a full-time seat in 2019.