x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Lewis Hamilton admits to off-track distractions

The 2008 world champions says that "losing his bubble" has affected him.

Lewis Hamilton, left, arrives at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday with a member of the McLaren-Mercedes team. Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, has been involved in several racing incidents this season.
Lewis Hamilton, left, arrives at Yas Marina Circuit on Thursday with a member of the McLaren-Mercedes team. Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, has been involved in several racing incidents this season.

ABU DHABI // A candid Lewis Hamilton acknowledged yesterday that issues away from the track had been a factor in his most disappointing year in Formula One.

As the F1 fraternity settled at Yas Marina Circuit yesterday to prepare for Sunday's Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with organisers confirming that all 50,000 tickets for the event have now been sold, the attention was grabbed by the 2008 world champion's forthright admissions over his frustrating season.

The Briton, who has been involved in a number of collisions and incidents in the campaign, is fifth in the standings, and faces being beaten by a teammate in F1 for the first time; he trails Jenson Button, who is second, by 38 points with a maximum of 50 left to be won.

"For me, there's not a lot of people that really understand the issues that I've had this year and the problems that I've been going through, which I've been going through for the last two years," he said.

"It's very difficult … I just can't comment on them because it's not really the place or time to do so.

"But Jenson's done a great job to get things in the right place. He has got his dad there, who is there at every single race. He's got his management there; he's got his friends; he's got his girlfriend there all the time. He's in a really, really happy [place]. … He's got a great bubble around him which he's very happy with and, with that, he's able to just go out and perform without any worries on his mind.

"I did have that at one point, but I lost that bubble and I don't have that around me at the moment. But I'm working on having that for the future, as I think the conscious and subconscious part of your mind is very important in this business."

Hamilton split from his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger, the American singer, earlier this year, and his relationship with his father Anthony suffered after he dropped him from being his manager last year.

Hamilton collided with Felipe Massa, the Ferrari driver, at the last race, in India, and the Brazilian is still upset that he received a penalty from race stewards for his role in the incident.

He said: "It was not a mistake from me, or even from Lewis. Maybe you can say it was a race collision.

"But the mistake for me came from the stewards."

Massa's teammate, Fernando Alonso, who missed out on the championship in Abu Dhabi last year, has said that he will push for second place in the standings, behind Sebastian Vettel, who retained the drivers' title last month in Japan, for his team.

"I see all the mechanics, the engineers really pushing to get to second place because we know the tough year we had, so for them I will try to do my best for sure," said the Spanish double world champion, on how motivated he was for pulling back the 13 points by which he trails Button.

Vettel, the only man to have won an F1 race at Yas Marina, said that he had been delighted to receive a personal message from Nigel Mansell, the British 1992 world champion, after Vettel broke his 19-year-old record for most laps led in one season at last month's Indian Grand Prix, when he reached 711.

The German said: "I got a very nice note from Nigel after the race about that, which I think was very nice. I would say I was more proud of receiving the letter then I am achieving the record."

It was announced yesterday that Vettel's compatriot, Nico Rosberg, has signed a new deal with Mercedes-GP that will keep him with the German team until the end of 2013.

Rosberg has yet to win a grand prix in 106 tries. He said: "I know I've got to be patient, but great times lie ahead, I'm sure."

Rubens Barrichello has not given up on keeping his seat with Williams for 2012, despite the British team still not having decided if they will renew his contract.

The Brazilian said: "I just have to wait and believe and when I have conversations with the team they seem to be saying the right thing for me, and I just have to wait."