Hungry Hamilton charges from the pit lane to the podium

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After qualifying yesterday, Lewis Hamilton was staring down the barrel of a sizeable deficit to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ championship. A fuel leak had caused a fire on his car during qualifying, meaning that he had to start the race from the pit lane.

However, through the rain, two safety car periods and a spin on the first lap of the race, the Briton stormed through to finish on the podium and – crucially – ahead of Rosberg, who came home in fourth.

Mercedes opted to split its drivers’ strategies, with Rosberg pitting one extra time but using the quicker tire for both stints. Despite making two requests for Hamilton to allow the German driver past, the Briton did not yield. Ultimately, it played a huge part in securing him a podium finish, as he cut the gap to Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ standings to eleven points.

“A big thank you to the team, great job in the pit stops and with the strategy,” Hamilton said. “I just tried my best, the car’s been fantastic when it’s going. Obviously a lot points lost, because we could have had a much better weekend, but we’ve got a lot of strengths to look forward to anyway.”

Hamilton spun off on the first lap of the race with cold brakes after starting in the pit lane, but he was pleased to reduce the gap to Rosberg.

“To be honest, at the beginning, obviously a mistake myself with the brakes were very, very cold, and locked up, and I was gone,” he explained. “Fortunately I got going again, thank the Lord I didn’t damage the car, and damage limitation again.”

However, he does not think that it is one of his best ever drives in Formula 1, even if the F1 paddock suggests otherwise.

The sport now takes a four week break before the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, with the teams set to enjoy two weeks off during this period.

NHRA: Antron Brown on verge of earning 50th career Top Fuel win this weekend at Phoenix

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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When you’re used to winning championships – like three in the previous five seasons – any other season finish is disappointing.

That’s kind of how NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Antron Brown looked at his fourth-place showing in the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

“At the end of the day, we had a very competitive season last year and made it to 10 final rounds,” Brown said. “But we got into the Countdown (NHRA’s six-race playoffs) and our timing was off.

“We struggled with a lot of problems we don’t usually have. Now it’s time for a new chapter for this team and time to get better. This is a new beginning for us and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re coming after them.”

Antron Brown hugs the NHRA Top Fuel championship trophy after winning it in 2016. (Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire)

Brown had a good start to 2018, reaching the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tony Schumacher in the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

“We had a great performance at Pomona and I couldn’t be more proud of what our Matco/Toyota guys did,” Brown said. “Now we are going to Phoenix where we’ve won three times (2009, 2012 and 2014, and was runner-up in 2011) and we’ll just try to hit it hard and get a fourth.”

Next up on the NHRA 24-race national event circuit is the second race of the season, this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix (Chandler, Arizona).

Brown has definite plans to make it four wins in Phoenix. And if he does that Sunday, he’ll set a significant career milestone: it would be his 50th career win driving a Top Fueler and the 66th win overall (he won 16 races in Pro Stock Motorcycle before shifting from two to four wheels).

In so doing, Brown would become only the fourth Top Fuel driver in NHRA history to hit the 50-win mark. The others are Tony Schumacher (83), Larry Dixon (62) and Joe Amato (52).

This will be the second time Brown has been racing in Phoenix this month. He was part of the preseason test there for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock cars a week before the season began.

“Testing went really well there,” said Brown, leaving him optimistic that he can reach victory circle once again. “I love going back to Phoenix.”

Brown has been the most dominant driver in NHRA Top Fuel competition since 2012, winning more than twice the number of races (34) than the next most successful Top Fuel driver (16 by Schumacher) in that time period.

He also has a 71 percent overall win percentage, which exceeds both eight-time Top Fuel champ Schumacher and 16-time Funny Car champ John Force.

“I’m just pumped up, feeling like we’ve got some unfinished business from last year,” Brown said. “We had a good outing but didn’t close the deal, so this year, we’re looking forward to getting back there and getting off to a great start.”

NOTES: Brown will serve as honorary pace car driver for the March 4th Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. He’ll be joined by teammates Matt Hagan and Leah Pritchett in a weekend full of activities that they’ll all be involved in.

“I’m really excited,” Brown said. “It’s going to be my first experience as a pace car driver, and I’m just super stoked to go out there and drive the Camry pace car for Pennzoil and start those NASCAR boys off the right way. Throttle down, pedal to the metal. I just want them to get off to a great start.”

Brown has won four times at The Strip, the drag strip adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity,” he said. “It’s an honor to be out there with such talented drivers, and I know I’m going to really enjoy watching our NASCAR counterparts.”

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