Hamilton chases Schumacher as virus overshadows F1 season start
Thursday, March 12th, 2020 00:00 | 2 mins read
Lewis Hamilton believes his all-conquering Mercedes is even better than last year as he begins his bid to equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven world titles at an Australian Grand Prix given the green light despite rising coronavirus fears.
The British driver has been the dominant force in recent times, winning five of the last six drivers’ championships, including in 2019 when he passed legendary five-time Argentine champion Juan Manuel Fangio on the all-time list.
“It’s been intense, with a huge amount of work from everybody at the track and back home at the factories,” the 35-year-old said of preparations overshadowed by concerns about the virus and its impact on the sport.
“The car’s feeling like a step forward from last year,” Hamilton added after pre-season testing.
“But it’s clear we’ve still got a few issues we need to iron out,” said the driver who won 11 of last season’s 21 grands prix.
There were fears the Melbourne race may be ditched due to travel restrictions affecting team personnel, particularly from Italy-based Ferrari.
On Wednesday, two Haas team staff and one from McLaren were isolated while tests are conducted to see if they have coronavirus after they showed symptoms at the track.
“We expect to receive the results overnight. The team is operating as per our normal schedule,” a McLaren official said.
It is not clear what it might mean for the grand prix if the test results come back positive.
F1, like many other sports, is already reeling from COVID-19 with next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix set to be held behind closed doors, and the Chinese Grand Prix in April postponed.
‘I can beat anyone’
Mercedes head into the race with a new dual-axis steering system (DAS), which has inevitably sparked complaints from other teams over whether it is legal.
While Hamilton has taken every pole at Albert Park since 2014, he has won just once in that time, and it was team-mate Valtteri Bottas who sizzled at pre-season testing. -AFP