Tag Archives: paddock

Aussie super-horse Black Caviar to retire after 25-race unbeaten run

We want her to bow out at the top! Aussie super-horse Black Caviar to retire after 25-race unbeaten run

PUBLISHED:

06:21 GMT, 17 April 2013

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UPDATED:

06:53 GMT, 17 April 2013

Unbeaten Australian mare Black Caviar will retire after winning 25 consecutive races, with her trainer Peter Moody admitting that the super sprinter 'has done everything we asked her to do.'

Moody, appearing at a news conference in front of Caulfield race track on Wednesday, where the six-year-old mare will make a farewell appearance for race patrons on Saturday, said he and the ownership group led by Neil Werrett had discussed Black Caviar's future over the past few days and 'we decided at lunch today' to announce her retirement.

Fond farewell: Black Caviar is paraded in front of the media with strapper Donna Fisher

Fond farewell: Black Caviar is paraded in front of the media with strapper Donna Fisher

Emotional: Trainer Peter Moody announces retirement of Black Caviar

Emotional: Trainer Peter Moody announces retirement of Black Caviar

Race team: Black Caviar and her connections at the press conference

Race team: Black Caviar and her connections at the press conference

'She has done everything we have asked her to do,' trainer Peter Moody said.

'We
thought long and hard about racing on but believe she has done
everything we asked of her and felt it was the right time to call time
on her wonderful career.

'She's in great shape and that's the way we wanted her to bow out. We just thought the time was right – it was a hard decision.

'She brought interest to our sport that hasn't been there for decades.'

Final flourish: Black Caviar, ridden by Luke Nolen, wins the TJ Smith Stakes

Final flourish: Black Caviar, ridden by Luke Nolen, wins the TJ Smith Stakes

Stunner: Black Caviar (left) wins the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012

Impressive: Black Caviar (left) wins the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2012

Black Caviar, purchased by Moody for
$225,000, won $8 million in prize money, including an Australian-record
15 Group One wins, most over distances around 1,200 meters.

She'll now have some time being spelled in a paddock before being bred.

'We hope that in three years, Peter
Moody will be training a progeny of Black Caviar,' said Werrett, his
voice breaking at times during the retirement announcement.

Black Caviar, ridden by her regular
jockey Luke Nolen, won her 25th race last Friday in the T.J. Smith
Stakes at Royal Randwick by two lengths. It was the sprinter's third win
since coming back in February from an eight-month injury layoff.

Storming finish: Luke Nolen rides Black Caviar to victory in the TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick

Super horse: Black Caviar claimed a Australian-record
15 Group One wins

No stopping her: Black Caviar again showed who's boss in the Sydney showdown

Money spinner: Black Caviar won $8 million in prize money

Black Caviar narrowly won the Diamond
Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, England last June and faced possible
retirement after tearing a quadriceps muscle at Ascot.

But laser therapy and exercise
enabled her to return to the track for another – and what turned out her
final – abbreviated season.

There were suggestions as recently as
the weekend that she'd race again at tracks in Brisbane or Adelaide, or
perhaps return to Royal Ascot.

'Black Caviars don't come along every day,' said Moody. 'It's time to call it a day.'

Triumph: Jockey Nolen celebrates the win - making it 25 out of 25 victories

Triumph: Jockey Nolen celebrates making it 25 out of 25 victories

That's my girl! Black Caviar trainer Peter Moody celebrates with and strapper Donna Fisher

That's my girl! Black Caviar trainer Peter Moody (centre)

BLACK CAVIAR'S VICTORIES

2yo Hcp Restricted, Flemington (18 Apr 2009)

Blue Sapphire Stakes, Caulfield (2 May 2009)

Crockett Stakes, Moonee Valley (22 Aug 2009)

Daneholl Stakes, Flemington (5 Sep 2009)

Australia Stakes, Moonee Valley (22 Jan 2010)

Schillaci Stakes, Caulfield (9 Oct 2010)

Schweppes Stakes, Moonee Valley (23 Oct 2010)

Patinack Farm Classic, Flemington (6 Nov 2010)

Lightning Stakes, Flemington (19 Feb 2011)

Newmarket Handicap, Flemington (12 Mar 2011)

William Reid Stakes, Moonee Valley (25 Mar 2011)

T J Smith Stakes, Randwick (9 Apr 2011)

BTC Cup, Doomben (14 May 2011)

Schillaci Stakes, Caulfield (8 Oct 2011)

Schweapped Stakes, Moonee Valley (22 Oct 2011)

Patinack Farm Classic, Flemington (5 Nov 2011)

Australia Stakes, Moonee Valley (27 Jan 2012)

C F Orr Stakes, Caulfield (11 Feb 2012)

Lightning Stakes, Flemington (18 Feb 2012)

Robert Sangster, Morphettville (28 Apr 2012)

Goodwood Handicap, Morphettville (12 May 2012)

Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Ascot (23 Jun 2012)

Lightning Stakes, Flemington (16 Feb 2013)

William Reid Stakes, Moonee Valley (22 Mar 2013)

TJ Smith Stakes, Royal Randwick (13 April 2013)

Lewis Hamilton pulls into McLaren pit lane in Malaysian Grand Prix after ditching team for Mercedes

Embarrassment for Hamilton as he pulls into McLAREN pit garage during Malaysian GP… months after ditching team for Mercedes

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

08:44 GMT, 24 March 2013

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UPDATED:

10:16 GMT, 24 March 2013

Lewis Hamiton has always insisted he made the right decision in leaving McLaren for Mercedes for the new Formula One season.

But the British star's mind seemed to be on his old team in Malaysia when he pulled into the WRONG pit garage.

The McLaren crew were in position for Jenson Button but were forced to let Hamilton through when he came in on lap seven.

Oops: Lewis Hamilton pulled into the McLaren pit lane during the Malaysian Grand Prix

Oops: Lewis Hamilton pulled into the McLaren pit lane during the Malaysian Grand Prix

Oops: Lewis Hamilton pulled into the McLaren pit lane during the Malaysian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton drives in to the wrong pits during the Malaysian Grand Prix

Thankfully for the 28-year-old he was
able to complete his pit stop in the right garage and resume his fight for the lead.

Hamilton's girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger reacted with shock to the unfortunate mistake as she watched a replay.

Afterwards Hamilton, who finished in third despite having to save fuel, said: 'I did a Jenson. He did that a couple of years ago.

'I am used to driving in the McLaren pits, I don't know how I got it wrong so I apologise to my team.'

More to follow…

Shock: Nicole Scherzinger reacts after boyfriend Hamilton pulled into the wrong garage

Shock: Nicole Scherzinger reacts after boyfriend Hamilton pulled into the wrong garage

Shock: Nicole Scherzinger reacts after boyfriend Hamilton pulled into the wrong garage

All's well that ends well: Hamilton finished third in the race, his first podium finish with Mercedes

All's well that ends well: Hamilton finished third in the race, his first podium finish with Mercedes

Feeling sheepish Hamilton made a huge call by ditching the team that had nurtured him from childhood

Feeling sheepish Hamilton made a huge call by ditching the team that had nurtured him from childhood

Big day ahead: The British star arrives in the paddock before the race with former Pussycat Doll Scherzinger

Big day ahead: The British star arrives in the paddock before the race with former Pussycat Doll Scherzinger

Cheltenham Festival – win VIP tickets

WIN VIP tickets to the Cheltenham Festival, including meal and drinks – courtesy of lovetheraces.com

UPDATED:

17:21 GMT, 18 February 2013

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Michael Schumacher tainted his F1 legacy – Bernie Ecclestone

Schuey tainted his legacy by coming out of retirement, claims F1 chief Ecclestone

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UPDATED:

15:24 GMT, 7 December 2012

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone fears Michael Schumacher has damaged his legacy by coming out of retirement to race with Mercedes.

Ecclestone claimed the seven-time world champion's decision to return to the sport in 2010 was a big mistake.

Speaking to the official Formula One website, Ecclestone said: 'I would rather he had stopped as a seven-time world champion than stopping now.

End of the road: Schumacher has retired for a second time after a largely unsuccessful stint at Mercedes

End of the road: Schumacher has retired for a second time after a largely unsuccessful stint at Mercedes

'People new to the sport, people who have joined the F1 fan fraternity just recently, will remember Michael now, not as he was.

'They don't see the hero that he was but the human that can fail. I think the important thing is to know when you can't do what you used to do any more and then hand it over to somebody else. I hope that's what I can do: when I feel I can't deliver, I will certainly say goodbye.'

Schumacher spoke of his relief after deciding to retire for a second time and has handed the baton of reviving Mercedes' fortunes over to Lewis Hamilton.

Loss: Ecclestone claims Formula One will miss Schumacher

Loss: Ecclestone claims Formula One will miss Schumacher

But despite three largely unsuccessful seasons in his second stint in Formula One, Ecclestone acknowledged Schumacher will be a loss to the grand prix paddock.

He said: 'He enjoyed racing and was there helping to do good things for Formula One. We will miss Michael, because even though he wasn't winning races in those three years, he is still very popular.'

Liverpool fans soaked by faulty sprinkler at Anfield

Water torture! Liverpool fans get soaked by faulty sprinkler at Anfield

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UPDATED:

19:58 GMT, 4 November 2012

It never rains but it pours for Liverpool fans.

A number of supporters received a dousing
but VIPs escaped getting drenched after a sprinkler malfunction at Sunday's Premier League match with Newcastle.

Just before the teams emerged for the
second half of the 1-1 draw a jet of water – designed to dampen the
pitch – turned itself towards the Main Stand.

Why always me One wet Liverpool fan

Why always me One Liverpool fan gets soaked by the faulty sprinkler

Water torture: Fans are soaked by a broken sprinkler

Water torture: Fans are soaked by a broken sprinkler

Supporters in the first 20 rows of the Paddock got a soaking for at least 30 seconds but the dignitaries – including Reds managing director Ian Ayre – had not yet re-taken their seats in the directors' box and so avoided an unwelcome wet start to the second half.

It put a dampener on their day as Kop legend Steven Gerrard made his 600th appearance for the club.

The Liverpool captain was presented with a special award by former midfielder Gary McAllister before kick-off.

Honour: Steven Gerrard (right) receives an award from former Liverpool captain Gary McAllister to mark his 600th appearance for the club

Honour: Steven Gerrard (right) receives an award from former Liverpool captain Gary McAllister to mark his 600th appearance for the club

Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard

Pass master: Liverpool midfielder Gerrard

But Luis Suarez ensured the day finished on a bright note for Liverpool by scoring a stunning second-half equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw.

United States Grand Prix to stage F1 race after glowing report

US Grand Prix given green light as F1 race director Whiting hails 'first-class' track

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UPDATED:

09:41 GMT, 26 September 2012

The Circuit of the Americas has been given the green light to stage this year's United States Grand Prix.

FIA technical delegate and race director Charlie Whiting conducted a 60-day inspection of the venue that is due to host the race in Austin, Texas, from November 16-18.

Whiting has declared the 5.5km (3.4-mile) track and the pit and paddock buildings as 'fantastic', and had no hesitation in awarding COTA 'Grade One' status that now allows it to stage grand prix.

Yanks very much: The Grand Prix of Americas has been given the green light

Yanks very much: The Grand Prix of Americas has been given the green light

'Everything I've seen so far has been absolutely first class, and the progress that's been made since the last time I was here is amazing,' said Whiting in a COTA statement.

'The guys have done an awesome job – it really is quite fantastic! It's built to the highest quality, exactly as we expected, and I've absolutely no complaints whatsoever.'

Whiting believes the drivers, in particular, will be impressed given the possibilities available for overtaking, and which are crucial for entertaining an American audience.

Debut: The race is scheduled for November 18

Debut: The race is scheduled for November 18

Whiting added: 'There are three or four corners that are very likely to see overtaking.

'You'll see the turns have been designed so that they're extremely wide and the apex is very short.

'It's a very modern approach to slow corners where we hope overtaking will take place. So I'm very confident it will work well.

'And turn one is awesome! It's the only word I can think of to describe it, and I think drivers and teams coming here for the first time will say the same thing.'

Whiting will conduct one final inspection on the Monday before the race to ensure completion of the remaining ongoing landscaping and painting projects.

F1 fans turn on Lewis Hamilton after Italian Grand Prix victory

It's boo, hiss Hamilton as fans turn on unsettled Lewis after Monza victory

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UPDATED:

20:47 GMT, 9 September 2012

The victory champagne turned flat
almost as soon as the cork was out of the bottle as Lewis Hamilton’s
contract saga appeared to overshadow his first Italian Grand Prix
victory.

Hamilton’s performance on the track
may have shown no signs of being affected by the uncertainty surrounding
his McLaren future.

But afterwards he wore a face like a wet week
rather than one you would associate with a dominant victory — the 20th
of his career — around a sun-drenched Monza circuit.

Thumbs up: Hamilton celebrates on the podium

Thumbs up: Hamilton celebrates on the podium

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

Plain sailing: Hamilton led from the front

The fact Hamilton was booed by the partisan Ferrari-favouring tifosi as he took to the podium did not help. That said, the locals would have already been streaming out of the circuit had Fernando Alonso, who recovered from 10th on the grid, not occupied the third step.

But getting the bird from Italian fans cannot fully explain why Hamilton was distinctly underwhelmed at completing a clean sweep of grand prix classics: Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Monza.

Was he aware of that achievement ‘Haven’t got a clue,’ replied Hamilton. Did he not care about such milestones ‘It just means I don’t have a clue which races I have won,’ he explained.

italy results

Inevitably the paddock grapevine came up
with a theory. Maybe the magnitude of leaving McLaren for Mercedes had
suddenly dawned on the 2008 world champion.

It remains to be seen whether Hamilton has agreed to the switch, but the
fact Mercedes’s current drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg
could manage only sixth and seventh may be of some concern if he has.

Perhaps Hamilton should have a chat with Sauber before he signs as
Sergio Perez produced a stunning drive to grab second, overtaking the
Ferrari duo of Alonso and Felipe Massa.

Goodness only knows what effect the post-race words of Ron Dennis, the
executive chairman of McLaren group, would have had on Hamilton’s mood
should he have heard them.
But presumably Hamilton did notice the lack of applause from Dennis as he collected the winner’s trophy.

Were Hamilton and McLaren a match made in heaven ‘Well he certainly won
the race, he drove very well,’ replied Dennis before suggesting the
pace of McLaren’s car had strengthened their negotiating position.

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team

Italian job: Ferrari fans flocked to Monza to support the home team


Frustration: Button was set for second place before an engine failure

Frustration: Button was set for second place before an engine failure

‘If Lewis is absolutely committed to winning then he can win in a
McLaren,’ he said, the inference being victories may be in short supply
at Mercedes. Then there was the subject of having two British drivers in
a British team. ‘It is not essential, we always have the two best
available drivers,’ insisted Dennis.

Few would argue that, given the contract situation of Formula One’s
other top talent, Hamilton falls into the category of ‘best available’
and team principal Martin Whitmarsh conceded he had ‘no Plan B’ should
his driver opt for pastures new.

Hamilton had the best car and made the best of it, starting from pole
and only briefly losing the lead to Perez as the pit stops played out.
Indeed, this could well have been a one-two for McLaren had Jenson
Button’s car not ground to a halt on lap 33.

Even so, Button’s demeanour was far chirpier than his team-mate’s, even
if he did concede his championship hopes were all but over given the
78-point gap to Alonso.

‘It is going to be very difficult but nothing is going to change,’ said
Button. ‘I am still going to race hard and try to win every race.’

Clear air: Alonso stretched his lead to 37 points

Clear air: Alonso stretched his lead to 37 points

Airborne: Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso crashes out in spectacular fashion

Airborne: Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso crashes out in spectacular fashion

McLaren, however, must surely realise Hamilton is their only realistic
title hope. His chances were improved by a disastrous day for Red Bull
as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were forced to retire.

Despite feeling his race had been compromised when Vettel forced him on
to the grass on the exit of the Curva Grande, Alonso extended his lead
by 13 points after Massa was covertly ordered to move aside for his
team-mate yet again.

Hamilton can expect no such favours from Button until he is out of the
title hunt. If he is to be crowned world champion again, Hamilton will
have to do it the hard way.

And if he does pull it off, will it be a McLaren or a Mercedes that carries him next season

Bad day at the office: Vettel had to stop his car towards the end of the race

Bad day at the office: Vettel had to stop his car towards the end of the race

Champagne moment: Hamilton and Alonso enjoy their moment on the podium

Lewis Hamilton told to commit to McLaren or go to Mercedes by Martin Whitmarsh

Commit to McLaren or go, Whitmarsh tells Hamilton after 60m Mercedes offer

|

UPDATED:

10:37 GMT, 8 September 2012

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has warned Lewis Hamilton: We want you to stay only if you’re 100 per cent committed.

Whitmarsh conceded Hamilton must prove he has not had his head turned by Mercedes’ offer to join them next season on a 60million, three-year deal.

‘Ultimately, a driver has to drive where he is happy to drive,’ said Whitmarsh. ‘So the team and I don’t want anyone who is not 100 per cent committed to it. You can’t work like that. I’ve made that clear from the outset.’

That's more like it: Lewis Hamilton impressed

That's more like it: Lewis Hamilton impressed

Hamilton has the edge in final practice

Hamilton edged home hero Alonso in final practice by the slenderest of margins on Saturday morning. Just one thousandth of a second separated Hamilton and championship leader Alonso.

Whitmarsh further admitted that, while he has received ‘assurances’ from Hamilton’s management company XIX Entertainment and while talks over a new contract are at an ‘advanced stage’, McLaren may yet be in for a nasty surprise.

‘Lots of very positive things have been said to me,’ said Whitmarsh ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix. ‘But then again, I’ve learned over the years that, until people support that by inking the paper, you don’t get too excited.’

Both Hamilton and McLaren have been happy to let self-imposed deadlines come and go. But Mercedes’ offer means McLaren cannot drag their heels for much longer.

Promising: Hamilton shrugged aside speculation to post the fastest time

Promising: Hamilton shrugged aside speculation to post the fastest time

‘It’s a fairly incestuous paddock,’ said Whitmarsh. ‘So you tend to know, certainly if you have been around over 20 years, what’s going on.’

There is also the small matter that, should Hamilton plump for Mercedes, he will leave with a host of secrets about next season’s McLaren.

Of a driver’s knowledge of their team’s designs for next season, Jenson Button said: ‘Unless they wear blinkers they have seen lots. We go through the whole season working on next season’s car.’

Such issues are further elements for McLaren to consider around the negotiating table. But Whitmarsh is adamant Hamilton’s future is not proving a distraction to either team or driver.

On the Button: Jenson was looking strong again

On the Button: Jenson was looking strong again at Monza amid the speculation surrounding his team-mate

On the Button: Jenson was second fastest on Friday morning

‘I don’t think it has unsettled the team actually,’ insisted Whitmarsh. ‘We are here trying to go motor racing.’

Button, who knows a thing or two about switching teams, agreed with his boss. He said: ‘I don’t think we can always put our bad performances down to our heads not being in the right place. You either do a good job or a bad job.

‘But you should, as a driver, be able to take yourself away, work with the engineers and focus on the important things.’

Italian Grand Prix

Trying to secure three McLaren wins on the trot is the most important thing for Whitmarsh this weekend. The signs are already promising, with Hamilton fastest in second practice on Friday, a whisker ahead of Button.

But, whether Hamilton bounces back from his first lap crash in Belgium with a first win at Monza or Button makes it back-to-back victories following his dominant display at Spa, the question, ‘Is there life after Lewis’ will not be far away.

Jenson Button faces playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren

Trailing in the F1 championship, Button now faces being in the shadow of Hamilton at McLaren

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UPDATED:

21:56 GMT, 30 August 2012

McLaren team principal Martin
Whitmarsh is bracing himself for the delicate task of telling Jenson
Button he must play second fiddle to team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Button trails Hamilton by 41 points
in the drivers’ championship and unless he makes significant inroads
into that gap at Spa this weekend and Monza the next then he can expect a
quiet word in his ear from the boss.

Behind you: Lewis Hamilton (left) and Jenson Button

Behind you: Lewis Hamilton (left) and Jenson Button

While Whitmarsh claimed the time for team orders is not upon McLaren just yet, with Button already 88 behind championship leader Fernando Alonso decision time is fast approaching.

‘There may well come a point (where Button would have to support Hamilton), conceded Whitmarsh.

‘We must be measured when we talk to the drivers about when they put their support behind another driver.’

Judging by Button’s bullish mood ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, Whitmarsh will have to be at his diplomatic best if he is to persuade the 2009 world champion to put his teammate’s best interests before his own.

Questioned about whether he should already be playing a supporting role, Button replied: ‘You’d say that I’m going to give up on fighting for the Championship just because I’m 40 points behind my team-mate Lewis is 40 points behind Fernando and I still think he thinks he’s got a very good chance of winning this championship, so no, we go racing.

Upbeat: Button and girlfriend Jessica Michibata arrive in the paddock

Upbeat: Button and girlfriend Jessica Michibata arrive in the paddock

‘I’m not here to just race around and
just help my teammate win a championship. I’m going to be fighting all
the way until I either win the championship or it’s not possible.

'The last two races for us were very good. I had a second in Hockenheim and Lewis won last time out in Hungary.

'So we come here positive we can get a really good result, so it (team orders) is definitely not the situation.'

Asked as to whether such a scenario could occur further down the line, Button was equally as dismissive.

'If I was 40 points behind Lewis in the championship and he was leading do you think they (the team) would turn around and say 'you've got to support your team-mate',' added Button.

'It's not a big margin, less than two wins.

'Half the grid is in front of their team-mate, and all of them are not going to turn around and say “yes, I'm going to help my team-mate”.

'Unless the chance has gone of winning the title you are going to fight for it. I'm not here to just race around and just help my team-mate win a championship. None of us are.

Tough decision: McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh

Tough decision: McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh

'We're here to fight and do the best job we can, for ourselves first of all, and then for the team.

'It would be a pretty boring championship if 12 of us were fighting for
a victory and the rest of us were there to help our team-mates.

'It's not the sort of formula we should want, so I'm going to fight all the way until I either win the championship, or it's not possible.'

In fairness to Hamilton, from his perspective, he would not want to win a title knowing Button had given him a helping hand along the way.

'Jenson races for the team and for points for himself as well, he has been getting stronger as the season has wore on, and I expect that to be the case for the rest of the year,' said Hamilton.

'We need him – I need him – to score points as well. We want him to do well. If you look back at past years when drivers let others past to win a championship, that doesn't feel right to me.

'I won't be asking for that.'

Hamilton has dismissed a scenario as simple as Button holding up a rival, should the possibility arise during a race.

'I wouldn't even want that. If I'm not quick enough then I'm not quick enough,' added Hamilton.

'I want to win because I'm quickest, not because I was given points by someone being held up.'

F1 Lewis Hamilton insists the party is over

Focused Hamilton insists the party is over as McLaren ace raps his critics

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UPDATED:

19:35 GMT, 27 July 2012

Lewis Hamilton issued a firm yet
polite ‘no comment’ when asked at last weekend’s German Grand Prix about
his post-Silverstone night on the town.

But as paddock murmurings about
Hamilton’s lifestyle continue, spurred on by a jaunt down the French
Riviera earlier this week in his 180,000 McLaren road car to hang out
with rappers Swizz Beatz and Ludacris, Hamilton was eager to get a few
things off his chest ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Fastest: Hamilton races in the heat in Hungary

Fastest: Hamilton races in the heat in Hungary

Fastest: Hamilton races in the heat in Hungary

The paparazzi pictures of him spilling out of a London club with hip hop star J Cole and a gaggle of women after a disappointing showing in the British Grand Prix provided ammunition for those who have questioned whether his focus remains on Formula One.

Enough is enough, declared Hamilton, as he attempted to put things into perspective. ‘I should clarify one thing,’ he replied to questions about his work life balance. ‘I have been out once in the UK in the last eight months. The last time you saw me out was when I was in London in November.

‘I didn’t even go out on New Year’s Eve. I didn’t go out until June. This whole not focused stuff…I have never been so focused in my life. I have never trained so hard in my life. I have never dedicated so much time of my life to preparing for a grand prix.’

Whether Hamilton letting his hair down has landed him in the doghouse with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger is a matter for the gossip columns, unless, as was seemingly the case last season, his relationship with the pop star affects his displays on the track.

The pits: Second-fastest Button comes into the paddock

Promising: Button was second fastest in the morning's session

The pits: Second-fastest Button comes into the paddock

There has been no sign of that in this
campaign, although Hamilton, 27, admitted: ‘Along the way you do make
mistakes. I wanted to make sure this year that there was no stone
unturned, that I didn’t get to the end of the year and say, “Well, I
wish I hadn’t done that because then I would have won”. I feel like I
have always prepared for the race as well as I could.’

Given that it was Hamilton himself who posted the pictures on Twitter of
him making a video with two prominent members of the hip hop
fraternity, he obviously sees no problem with mixing showbusiness with
the day job.

What does he feel about the criticism of such lifestyle choices ‘I
wouldn’t give it a second thought,’ replied Hamilton. And what of his
capacity to know where to draw the line ‘You just do. That is why we
are in the business we are in. That is why we are the top drivers,
because we know how to do it. Downtime is important.’

Of course, the perfect riposte to the doubters will be to deliver a
much-needed win here in Hungary before Formula One packs up until
September. The German Grand Prix was a case of ‘what could go wrong did
go wrong’ for Hamilton, the 2008 world champion hampered by an early
puncture which damaged his car and ultimately saw him retire 10 laps
before the finish.

In fairness to Hamilton, only once this season could he be described as
the architect of his own demise. That occasion came when, instead of
settling for fourth place at the European Grand Prix in Valencia last
month, he chose to try to fend off Pastor Maldonado and was punted into
the tyre wall by the Williams driver.

Leading the way: Alonso (above) and Webber (below) are first and second in the standings

Leading the way: Alonso (above) and Webber (below) are first and second in the standings

Leading the way: Alonso (above) and Webber (below) are first and second in the standings

Even then the stewards placed the blame for the collision firmly at the door of Maldonado.
Indeed, that Hamilton has not been on the podium as often as he would
have liked this season has largely been down to the failings of his
team.

But promising signs from Germany that the updated McLaren is a match
for Red Bull and Ferrari, Jenson Button having run with Fernando Alonso
and Sebastian Vettel at the front, have seemingly been carried over to
Hungary.

Hamilton topped the time sheets in both practice sessions yesterday, a
tenth of a second ahead of his team-mate and more than half a second
ahead of championship leader Alonso in the fully dry morning outing.

Too often, however, McLaren have looked like candidates for victory on Friday and Saturday only to disappoint come race day.

But if they really have turned a corner, Hamilton’s closest challenger is likely to be Button.
The McLaren duo are vying to equal Ayrton Senna’s tally of three wins at
the Hungaroring, just one fewer than record-holder Michael Schumacher,
who slid off a damp track and damaged his Mercedes yesterday afternoon,
just as he did during practice last week in Germany.

Should Hamilton match the achievement of his great hero Senna, then
surely no one could begrudge him the opportunity for a little post-race
partying before Formula One shuts down for its summer break.

Putting the boot in: Nico Rosberg has a kickaround in the paddock

Putting the boot in: Nico Rosberg has a kickaround in the paddock


Off track: Schumacher's Mercedes is towed away after he collided with the wall

Off track: Schumacher's Mercedes is towed away after he collided with the wall

Fully focused: Button (above) and Hamilton (below) are hoping for improved performances in Hungary