Shanghai (AFP) – Formula One’s Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that a five-place grid penalty imposed on him because of a gearbox change gave him “an opportunity to rise” in China this weekend.
The reigning world champion, who trails Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 17 points after the German won the season’s first two races in Australia and Bahrain, faces a battle to prevent that gap from widening in Shanghai.
But Hamilton told reporters: “Arriving with a penalty of course changes the approach to the weekend, it changes the mindset a little bit. But for me a challenge is an opportunity to rise.
“It is going to be an easier weekend for Nico for sure,” added the Briton. “But it doesn’t mean I can’t give him a good run for his money from wherever I start, so I’m going to be pushing as hard as I can.”
Mercedes determined that China was the best place to change the gearbox, which was damaged in Bahrain and needed replacing.
“Not the ideal start to the weekend, admittedly, but of all the places to take a grid hit, this is one of the better ones,” the team tweeted.
Under Formula Ones rules, drivers have to use a single gearbox for six successive races, meaning the highest grid position Hamilton can now hope for on Sunday is sixth.
Hamilton already has his hands full stopping a surging Rosberg, who has won five straight races dating to the back end of last season after Hamilton clinched his third world title.
“I doesn’t mean I can’t win the race,” insisted the 31-year-old. “Which is my though process rather than damage limitation. It’s a race this weekend, rather than being at the front and have less of a race.”
Rosberg, meanwhile, was quick to play down his rampaging start to the season, as well as the significance of Hamilton’s penalty.
“It’s two races into the longest F1 season we have ever had with 21 races,” smiled the German. “It’s still massively early days. I’m battling Lewis Hamilton and we all know how quick he is and his track record in the last two years.
“That’s not going to be any different this year,” added Rosberg. “He’s as focused and motivated as ever.
“A Hamilton who starts sixth is still going to challenge for the win and we know that. I’m not taking anything for granted at all. I’m just looking at getting my job done.”