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Time to capitalise


Hamilton hopes to pull away at scenic Spielberg circuit

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steps from his car after winning the French Formula One Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard racetrack, in Le Castellet, southern France, Sunday, June 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

The Formula One lead has changed hands four times in eight grands prix so far this season but Lewis Hamilton hopes to put more daylight between himself and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Austria this weekend.

The Mercedes driver is 14 points clear of his rival and fellow four-times world champion after winning in France on Sunday and heads to Spielberg confident of continuing the momentum.

Mercedes have not been beaten at the scenic circuit, Red Bull’s home territory, since the race returned to the calendar in 2014 – four victories in a row.

Hamilton hoped it would be business as usual for Mercedes at Spielberg.

“I think Austria should be a fairly decent track. It’s been a decent track for us in the past, so I don’t see why it should be any different now,” he told reporters after the French win.

Past performance only goes so far however, with Ferrari already ending several Mercedes sequences this season, and pole position will again be crucial in the second of an unprecedented triple-header of races on successive weekends.

Hamilton has been fastest in qualifying three times so far in 2018 to Vettel’s four. Teammate Valtteri Bottas is still waiting but was close in France.

Next up after Austria is Britain, where Mercedes have won the last five in a row, followed by Germany (Mercedes unbeaten in the V6 turbo hybrid era) and Hungary, where Ferrari and Red Bull have had recent success.

This weekend Red Bull will also be a big threat, with Max Verstappen on a roll of three podiums in four races and Australian Daniel Ricciardo the winner in China and Monaco and looking for a third.

“We are a bit compromised on the straights but somehow it was always not too bad,” said Verstappen of his past experiences at Spielberg. “I’m also looking forward to the weekend because I think a lot of Dutch fans are coming out so a lot of orange around, so that’s always good.”