F1 Italian GP: Hamilton calls on Mercedes to stop 'bluffing' Ferrari
With Sebastian Vettel within striking distance in their battle for the Formula One drivers' championship, Lewis Hamilton has called on Mercedes to "stop bluffing" as the Silver Arrows aim to maintain their strong recent record in Ferrari country.
Vettel's victory at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend has left him 17 points behind his rival in the title race heading into this week's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
Ferrari are sure to receive the full-throated backing from the tifosi - their passionate fans - but it is Mercedes for whom the circuit has been a happy hunting ground in recent years.
Mercedes have triumphed in each of the last four races at Monza, Hamilton taking the chequered flag three times for the team in northern Italy, having also done so once for McLaren.
But it was Ferrari who had the upper hand in Belgium, a race where both teams brought engine upgrades.
Feeling Mercedes are only ahead because of bad luck for Vettel prior to the recent three-week break, Hamilton said: "They've had the upper hand on us for some time. The pendulum has swung a little bit.
"I would say the last two races in particular [before the break] we just did a better job. The cards we were dealt with, we did a better job with them - even though they had a better car.
"We've called their bluff almost. But there's only a certain amount of times you can do that. If you keep playing a deck of cards and you're bluffing, there's only a certain amount of times you can do it before the opponent realises you're doing that."
Twelve races done - and FOUR brand new lap records
How many more will we see in the second half of the season? #F1 #F1FastFact pic.twitter.com/IaM9k0QPZN
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 20, 2018
TALK OF THE PADDOCK
Force India's first race after being reborn as Racing Point Force India following the takeover that saved them from administration could hardly have gone better.
Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez qualified third and fourth respectively for the Belgian Grand Prix, though it was the latter who had the edge in the race at Spa.
Perez claimed fifth and Ocon sixth, but there is some contention surrounding the new team's finances going into Monza.
The expectation had been that Force India would be allowed to keep their commercial rights income but would forfeit 'Column 1' revenue having come into the series as a new entry and surrendered their previous constructors' points.
Column 1 payments are dished out to teams who have finished in the top 10 in two of the past three seasons, but it has subsequently become apparent that the plan is for Racing Point Force India to keep receiving these earnings.
However, backing for such plans is not unanimous, with Haas curious as to why it missed out on Column 1 payments for two years after entering the series in 2016.
But Racing Point Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer hit back at talk of preferential treatment and rejected claims the decision set a controversial precedent, telling Autosport: "This has happened once in our lifetime. It isn't like next year the same thing can happen."
When you tell the world “the Pink Panthers are back”. #BelgianGP @jamesmoy pic.twitter.com/b6VaVQJPHZ
— Racing Point Force India F1 (@ForceIndiaF1) August 26, 2018
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 231
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 214 (-17)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 146 (-85)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 144 (-87)
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 120 (-111)
1. Mercedes 375
2. Ferrari 360 (-15)
3. Red Bull 238 (-137)
4. Renault 82 (-293)
5. Haas 76 (-299)
RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)
Hamilton has recorded the most pole positions at Monza (six) and is one win away from equalling Michael Schumacher as the driver to have won the most races at this circuit (currently four).
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Lewis Hamilton