MAY 15, 2016
Hamilton slams sabbatical rumours
Lewis Hamilton has rubbished speculation he might be considering a year out of formula one in 2017.
The reigning triple world champion has had a bad start to this season, but an end to his recent reliability troubles meant he could charge to pole in Barcelona.
"Our new MGU-H has already done 3500 kilometres without problems," said Niki Lauda, referring to the modified design that is now running in Hamilton's car but not teammate Nico Rosberg's.
But even though he seems back on track in Spain, questions about Hamilton's excessive off-track lifestyle have caused some to wonder is his motivation is intact.
When asked about two British newspaper reports that suggested a sabbatical might be in the pipeline, however, Hamilton hit back on Saturday: "A sab... a year out? No way!
"Whoever wrote that was probably smoking some good stuff," he added.
Hamilton also tackled the same rumour in an interview with F1's official website, saying: "Yes, issues have come my way this season, but I have also had three poles.
"And when you take the last race, and see where I came back from, then I have to say it is very early days to come up with those kind of things."
The more realistic question on Saturday was under-pressure Ferrari's sudden loss of pace in qualifying, as the charging Red Bulls raced ahead to the second row of the grid.
"The Ferraris were surprisingly slow," said Mercedes chief Toto Wolff. "The car looked like a handful."
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel explained: "In general we are faster than Red Bull but today something went wrong with the setup."
But championship leader Nico Rosberg said both Ferrari and Mercedes do need to take Red Bull seriously.
"They have said a few times in public now that they are getting an engine upgrade soon so we need to pay attention to that," said the German.
"The good thing is that while it goes up and down behind us, we (Mercedes) are always there and always with a gap to whoever is in second at the moment," added Rosberg.
F1 legend Gerhard Berger told the Austrian broadcaster ORF in Barcelona that he thinks Red Bull is now poised to race consistently past Ferrari.
"The team has put two bad years behind it but now I feel this optimism from them," he said. "I have the feeling that in the medium term, the great rival of Mercedes will not be Ferrari but Red Bull," he said.