Hamilton lauds mechanics after repair job keeps him on track

Lewis Hamilton lauded the incredible repair job by his mechanics to ensure he remains in the hunt to win the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was staring at the gloomy possibility of starting from last here in Spa-Francorchamps after he sustained extensive damage to the front of his car following a 140mph crash in final practice on Saturday morning.

But Hamilton’s Mercedes crew managed to fix his stricken machine in a little more than two hours, so the Briton could take part in qualifying on Formula One’s return to action following its summer break.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc qualified on pole in Belgium
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc qualified on pole in Belgium (Francisco Seco/AP)

Ferrari’s impressive young star Charles Leclerc delivered a dominant display to leave Sebastian Vettel trailing in his shade – the Monegasque more than seven-tenths clear of his quadruple world champion team-mate to claim the third pole position of his career.

But Hamilton was relieved to have finished third, given Ferrari’s machinery is suited to this high-speed venue and his uncharacteristic practice accident.

“I am only human,” said Hamilton. “It is frustrating and it never feels good – whether it is in your first or 13th season, it doesn’t make a difference.

“But you can always learn from it and there is a silver lining with an opportunity to pick yourself up and rebuild.

Valtteri Bottas trails Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One standings
Valtteri Bottas trails Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the Formula One standings (Francisco Seco/AP)

“It was a massive challenge for the team and they did an exceptional job, an incredible job. They were incredibly diligent. It was just perfection, taking the car apart and rebuilding it.

“There is so much pressure on those guys and I didn’t want to put them in that position but they raised to the challenge and I am proud of them.

“But I go into the back of the garage and I see my broken parts and I am like ‘oh no, my baby’.”

Hamilton was in a class of one before the sport’s summer break, winning eight of the 12 rounds, and establishing a commanding lead of 62 points over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Sebastian Vettel has a race chance of victory in Belgium
Sebastian Vettel has a race chance of victory in Belgium (Martin Rickett/PA)

But the resumption of his campaign has not been straightforward. On Friday, he suffered a throttle pedal failure before his accident on Saturday morning.

For much of the weekend, he has not been able to match Bottas either, but the Englishman found the pace required to beat the Finn and put his Mercedes in a position to threaten Ferrari. Bottas lines up from fourth ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The Scuderia have not won this year, but their car works well at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps track and the Italians will now be firm favourites to take the chequered flag on Sunday.

It has been 12 months since Vettel last tasted victory, dominating at this venue a year ago. But the four-time world champion will have to usurp his team-mate for a much-needed win.

Leclerc has impressed this weekend and, after an engine failure denied him victory in Bahrain, before Max Verstappen’s fine fightback drive in Austria prevented him from winning in June, he will be hoping it is third time lucky as he bids to open his grand prix account.

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