Dominant Mercedes have a point to prove at Bahrain Grand Prix
Dominant Mercedes have a point to prove at Bahrain Grand Prix
World champion Lewis Hamilton must overcome the frustration of being denied victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix by his own team’s careless computer error. Teammate Valtteri Bottas has to compete far better if he’s to live up to his own preseason talk.
Bottas spoke confidently of being good enough to challenge for the title, rather than playing the role of ideal No. 2 to Hamilton.
He did little to back that up in Australia two weeks ago, finishing eighth.
A clumsy error in qualifying led to a crash and a further grid penalty for a gearbox change. But it was his lack of speed which was really alarming. He was unable to overtake Nico Hulkenberg, who finished seventh in a considerably slower Renault.
“It was a bad weekend, that’s it,” Bottas said somewhat dismissively on Thursday. “There’s no point in gathering pressure from one mistake.”
Although the Finn insists he has “processed” out the negativity from his Melbourne mishap, It was hardly the way to impress his bosses.
He can ill afford further slips, considering his contract expires at the end of the season. Mercedes will decide at some point this year whether to keep him. He won three races last year and will probably need to do better to prevent Mercedes choosing someone else.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is available next season and has been publicly weighing up his options. Mercedes are also reportedly considering a move for Force India driver Esteban Ocon, who is tipped for a bright future.
Mercedes, meanwhile, also need to do some fine-tuning.
The team blamed a computer bug from an offline software tool for the timing error which cost Hamilton victory in Melbourne, where he was in control of the race but suddenly found himself behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel coming out of the pit lane.
The incident occurred after a virtual safety car was deployed. Mercedes misjudged the time gap to Vettel when he came into the pits and Hamilton stayed out at a slower speed, enabling Vettel to pull ahead and win.
It led to irritation from Hamilton and caused introspection within the team, especially since Mercedes rarely make errors of any sort. Mercedes have won the past four drivers’ and constructors’ championships in dominant style, building a reputation for supreme efficiency.
Vettel’s confidence will be high after being gifted a win in Australia, and his 100th podium finish to boot. The German driver is eyeing a second straight victory in Bahrain and fourth of his career — having twice won here with Red Bull.
“Historically, Ferrari has been strong here,” Bottas said. “Last year they had stronger pace here. They’re going to be close to us.”
Sunday’s race will also further show whether McLaren has finally turned the corner, following a switch to Renault engines on the back of three miserable years with Honda.
Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso finished fifth in Australia and is confident he can challenge for a podium again this season.
For the first time, Alonso says, McLaren can control its own fate rather than worrying if the engine will fail.
“There is still a lot to improve if we want to catch the top three teams. But we have some potential,” Alonso said. “The next two months are crucial for our hopes in this championship. Hopefully some podium positions during the year. It’s the first time in the last few years it’s up to us to deliver.”
Anthony Joshua ready for Deontay Wilder but promoter wants no more delay
- Joshua successfully defended his International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts
- Joshua has repeatedly stressed he wants to fight fellow undefeated champion Wilder
LONDON: Britain’s Anthony Joshua believes his long-awaited clash with fellow world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder will take place as it would be “silly not to.”
But promoter Eddie Hearn has warned a deal must be agreed quickly if the American is to be Joshua’s next opponent.
Joshua successfully defended his International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization belts with brutal a seventh-round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday.
He is already booked in to box again at Wembley on April 13, but the question of an opponent has still to be resolved.
Joshua has repeatedly stressed he wants to fight fellow undefeated champion Wilder, who holds the World Boxing Council version of the heavyweight title, next.
“We have to fight, it would be silly not to” Joshua told reporters after inflicting the first stoppage-loss of Povetkin’s professional career.
Wilder, however, is next due to face Britain’s former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on December 1.
Talks between the Joshua and Wilder camps have stalled and Hearn is worried a fight that will be worth far more than the “peanuts” of an initially offered $50 million could be derailed.
If Fury beats Wilder, the American’s re-match clause would likely be activated, delaying both boxers from facing Joshua, the London 2012 Olympic champion who now has a professional record of 22 wins from 22 fights, with 21 knockouts.
“Being British, we’d like Fury to win, but for April, Wilder must win if that’s going to happen,” said Hearn.
“We’re not willing to wait until December to see. A deal must be done in advance of that, subject to him winning.
“But now, after 80,000 (the estimated crowd at Wembley) and the worldwide exposure and after the finish (against Povetkin) that offer (made previously, by the Wilder camp) will look like absolute peanuts when this fight is made.”
“That is the biggest fight in boxing; Wilder-Fury is a really good fight to see who’s the second best heavyweight in the world. Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko was the biggest fight in British boxing history, and Joshua-Wilder would eclipse that. We want that now.”
Hearn insisted: “We’re not waiting for time-wasters; we understand if they lose we’ll have to find another opponent, but if you win, we’re not waiting until December.
“These aren’t negotiations that will take 24 hours, and Joshua’s career is not being slowed down. If they don’t want to do that, we’ll fight someone else.”
Fury has previously said on social media that Joshua will never fight him but Hearn witheringly added: “Tyson Fury is the least entertaining fighter I’ve ever seen.
“He’s never been in a good fight, apart from against Steve Cunningham (in 2013), when he got knocked down.”
Meanwhile the 28-year-old Joshua said he too had no intention of being messed about by Wilder.
“If Wilder’s not serious, there’s other people out there; when he’s ready, we’re ready.”
Joshua added: “Good luck to them both (Wilder and Fury) — boxing needs it.
“I’ve had the burden of the heavyweight division on my back for some years, because it was all about me fighting Wilder, Fury, Klitschko, Dillian (Whyte), Povetkin. That’s all they were interested in — me fighting them all.
“So I’m happy those two are fighting. April 13 is booked, so whichever heavyweight is serious, we can look at making a deal. I have no interest in who wins; I’m not fussed.”
Joshua was rocked by Povetkin, the 2004 Olympic champion, in the first round. But he insisted the 39-year-old Russian had not broken his nose.
“These guys the last thing they lose is their power, but it was a good way to wake up,” Joshua said.
As for what lay behind his own public appeal, Joshua added: “The appeal is losing — who is going to be the man to beat me? Sometimes you have to go in there and really earn your money.
“Povetkin was a tough challenger for sure, but I knew how to break him down.
“I wasn’t looking for the knockout but the instinct told he was hurt. I knew how to tidy up and I knew it was time to get out of there.”