First Mercedes win gives Lewis Hamilton belief he can win 10 races

Lewis Hamilton has waved his Mercedes team away on holiday but has cancelled his own summer break as he prepares for the second half of the Formula One season after his emphatic victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

His plans are probably not unconnected with his break-up with the singer Nicole Scherzinger but it is also true that his 22nd race win, one of his best, has given him fresh impetus and he has chosen to train through the mid-season lay-off.

At one point last year his father, Anthony, said his son had to win 10 races to win the championship and, while Hamilton did not feel capable of doing that in the McLaren, his victory in Hungary has instilled belief in his Mercedes.

"Last year I didn't feel like I had the car to win 10 races," Hamilton said. "This year I feel I have a car that can win 10 races. The tyres are going to play a massive part of that but I truly believe in this car. It feels awesome.

"It feels it's there with the Red Bulls and the Lotuses. I think our pace was very similar. If we can continue with that qualifying pace, get ourselves up front and have the tyres working as they did [on Sunday] we can fight with them."

Hamilton said he found inspiration for his win when he saw his former team-mate Jenson Button holding up the world champion and leader Sebastian Vettel for 12 laps. The Mercedes driver made short work of Button when he emerged from the first of his three pit stops.

"Every lap, when I saw Jenson still ahead, I thought Jesus, I've got to really make the gap now. And I think I did. The first few laps I wasn't making a gap because I was looking after my tyres, and then I thought I've got to utilise this moment because as soon as he [Vettel] gets past he's probably going to hunt me down." He said he owed Button a beer.

Hamilton's first win for Mercedes was his fourth at the Budapest track, equalling the record of Michael Schumacher. With nine races to go the 28-year-old, having gained 10 points on Vettel at the Hungaroring, is 48 points behind in the championship standings. It must encourage the British driver that he has previously won six of the nine races to come – Spa, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Abu Dhabi and America.

"The tracks coming up should suit me," Hamilton said. "I am really looking forward to the second half of the season; it's normally my favourite part. We have still got improvements to make but this is a good step in Hungary."

The championship, he said, was "definitely in the back of my mind. The win definitely picks you up for the next few days and keeps you on a high. It's like a natural high. A bit of a Band Aid which will cover me for some time."

Hamilton continued: "Going into the break there's no better feeling than to win and I've been lucky enough to do it for many years with McLaren. It was always a really good boost for them knowing they could go into that period of time and relax with a win. I feel the same for Mercedes now.

"It's the first time they've had that feeling. And it's a big boost. I've just had a picture sent to me of the guys back at the factory celebrating. It's a big boost for us and maybe now we have a better chance moving forward for the next few races."

Mercedes have dominated recent qualifying sessions but on race days they have struggled with their tyres. They also had to battle with an overheating engine in Hungary.

Hamilton had thought he was an outside bet to take the chequered flag on Sunday. After all the controversy about the illegal tyre test in Barcelona Mercedes felt they were at a disadvantage in the race because they had not been allowed to test the new tyres, which were being used there for the first time. But, it seems, they suit the Mercedes fine.

Hamilton said: "I didn't really feel like I had a chance. Because when we did the practice we were half a second, eighttenths behind the Red Bulls on certain runs. And from past experience that's always been a disaster.

"And we didn't know anything about these tyres. I was shocked [at the start of the race]. I started going round and I was thinking the car's feeling pretty good, the tyres are feeling good, they're not catching me.

"And then when I came out of the pits ahead of Vettel it felt like I came out ever further ahead of him. He was only just coming out of the pits and I was already going into turn one and I thought, shoot, this is looking really good.

"It felt awesome when I was in the moment. I knew when I was going into the corners what I was going to do. When I was finishing the race I was thinking I know this track like the back of my hand. I know everywhere. And maybe the others don't know it as well."

Powered by article was written by Paul Weaver, for The Guardian on Monday 29th July 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © David Wall