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Hamilton ‘not giving up’ despite facing ‘tallest order’
9 September 2013
Having kept his Mercedes on the straight and narrow en route to ninth place in the Italian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton performed a prompt U-turn when it came to assessing his championship chances in the aftermath of the race.
Obviously frustrated at having his tactical attempt to recover from only qualifying twelfth for the Monza event scuppered by an early puncture, the Briton declared that his interest in the 2013 title was as good as over – only to backtrack and insist that he was still in the fight moments later.
With Sebastian Vettel adding a sixth victory of the season to maintain an unbeaten record since the season resumed in Belgium, Hamilton's ninth place saw the gap between the two expand to 81 points – equivalent to more than three race wins – with the seven 'flyaway' races in Asia and the Americas remaining on the schedule.
While daunting, the margin clearly remains breachable, and Hamilton knows only to well how much damage a couple of DNFs can do to a healthy points lead. Indeed, only last year, Vettel's closest 2013 challenger, Fernando Alonso, saw a 40+ point gap disappear after retirements in Belgium and Japan, allowing the German to steal away with a third title.
"When I got out of the car I was angry and definitely thought 'that could be it', Hamilton admitted in an interview with Sky Sports, “But I am not going to give up. I've got to win every race basically, which is the tallest order, but I can do nothing but try.
“You always want to win every race but, when you are up against Red Bull, it is hard to do that. Even if I win every race, if [Vettel] finishes second, it will be impossible [to take the title]. I just hope that, moving on these few races, we will have a better chance.”
Hamilton admitted that he was particularly emotional after the race, having driven hard to make up for both his qualifying faux pas - an off at the Parabolica which damaged the floor of his Mercedes – and then the puncture which interrupted would should have been a long run on the harder Pirellis at the start of the 53-lap event.
"I was angry because it sucks that you do all that work and everyone in the factory does all that work and you get two points and only make up three places,” he explained, “That is the way it goes and we will improve for the next races - we have a competitive car, we have got to get back ahead of the Ferraris and I feel we can do that from here on. We will keep pushing and I do feel that we can beat [Red Bull] in some races, so fingers crossed. "
Hamilton admitted that he had high hopes for the next stop on the schedule, which more closely resembles the scene of his lone win in 2013.
“I feel that our car was good in Hungary when it had high downforce and we'll have that heading to Singapore,” he noted, “I hope that I can take a few more wins this year [but] I just wish it was a closer battle at the front."
With Nico Rosberg only managing sixth in the Monza race, and seemingly unable to do anything about Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg in pursuit of fifth, Mercedes appears to have slipped back behind Ferrari and Red Bull since returning from the summer break, and executive director Toto Wolff admitted that there was work to do.
"You can't expect to be there all the time and we know where we went wrong over the last two weekends,” he was quoted by ESPN, “There is obviously always the danger that momentum stalls, but I don't think that's the case in our team. The momentum is still there, everybody is really motivated and we are enjoying ourselves, [but] sometimes it just needs a little kick to get you back on track."
Confirmed that Mercedes intended to keep updating its W04 despite the temptation to shift focus to the new technical challenges of 2014, Wolff erred on the side of caution when it came to talk of titles.
"You can never give up anything in F1 - and the past shows that, within a couple of races, things can change - but I think it's a pretty unrealistic task to be heading for any championship at this stage,” he concluded.