Hamilton chases first ever career three-peat in China

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Lewis Hamilton enters today’s Chinese Grand Prix looking to claim his third straight race win for the first time in his Formula 1 career, and after bagging pole position yesterday in the wet, he has given himself the best possible chance of doing so.

The British driver made his F1 debut back in 2007 with McLaren, becoming just the second rookie driver in the history of the team. However, he immediately shot to fame after finishing his first season in second place, and he most probably would have won the championship had it not been for a strategy error in Shanghai. He made up for it in 2008 though, winning the championship by a single point ahead of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.

Despite these successes and a number of wins since, the Briton has never won three straight races throughout his F1 career. However, he has come very close.

In 2007, Hamilton had the chance to make it three in a row at the French Grand Prix following victories in Canada and at Indianapolis in the United States Grand Prix. However, Ferrari romped to a one-two finish with a fine display.

During his championship winning year of 2008, Hamilton came very close to a hat-trick in Hungary after winning in Britain and Germany in the two races beforehand. He looked set to seal the victory, but a puncture meant that he struggled home to finish fifth. This still remains his lowest finishing position at the Hungaroring when he has seen the checkered flag.

Finally, in 2010, he lost out to Sebastian Vettel at the European Grand Prix after winning in Turkey and Canada. Hamilton brought his car home in second place, but even this came with a huge slice of luck. After overtaking the safety car, the Briton was given a drive-through penalty, but his advantage was so great that it meant he did not lose a position.

This time around, Hamilton has his best shot yet of making it three on the bounce. The Mercedes W05 is supreme in both dry and wet conditions, but the team will be keen on a hassle-free race. The greatest challenge to Hamilton might come from the other side of the garage as Nico Rosberg chases his second Chinese Grand Prix victory.

You can see if Hamilton makes it three in a row live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30am ET.

Hamilton, Bottas clock fastest times as F1 testing starts

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty IPhoto by Mark Thompson/Getty Imagesmages
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MONTMELO, Spain — Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas sent an ominous signal to their challengers after clocking the two fastest lap times on the first day of Formula One’s preseason testing.

Hamilton set the top time of Wednesday’s opening session’s of 1 minute, 16.976 seconds, after he took over from Bottas behind the wheel of the new Silver Arrow for the 2020 season. Bottas’ best effort was 0.337 seconds slower.

The Mercedes duo also completed the most laps of any team with 173.

Sergio Perez of Racing Point was the third fastest, followed by Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

Hamilton enters the season as the clear favorite as he seeks to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and surpass the German’s mark of 91 career wins. Hamilton has six titles and 84 wins.

“It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break,” Hamilton said. “So to come back and clock in over 170 laps just shows how hard everyone has been working over the winter.”

In last year’s preseason testing, the Mercedes cars were slower than the rival Ferraris. But they beat them come the first race of the year and never lost their advantage.

Hamilton and Bottas had nine one-two race finishes last season as they dominated the field to finish first and second in the overall points standings.

Wednesday’s eight hours of running went smoothly for all teams, with no accidents or breakdowns and good weather ideal for high speeds.

The only setback was for Sebatian Vettel, who couldn’t run as scheduled because of an illness.

Charles Leclerc took Vettel’s place and settled for the 11th best time of the 15 drivers who drove.

Leclerc, who finished fourth ahead of Vettel last season, said that his team had changed strategy.

“Last year in testing we were great but the first race was a little less great, and I think we have learned a few things on this,” he said. “This year we have started trying to focus more on ourselves and on trying to learn the car as much as possible during these first few days and then focus on performance later on.”

Verstappen finished third last season and is expected to again be biggest challenger to Mercedes’ dominance along with the two Ferraris.

Verstappen focused on accumulating 168 laps as Red Bull’s sole driver on the track. Alexander Albon will get his turn with the Red Bull on Thursday.

Williams’ George Russell was the first car to take the track, ensuring his team got off to a better start than during last year’s preseason when its car wasn’t ready to run until the third day of testing.

This year’s rules have not varied much ahead of the massive overhaul of regulations set to take effect in 2021 with the goal of shaking up the pecking order and closing the gap between the three traditional title challengers – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – and all the rest.

This season’s tweaks feature fewer tests days to compensate for the record-breaking 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam GP and the return of the Dutch GP. Preseason testing has been reduced from a total of eight days to six, and the mid-season test has been eliminated.

Cars will now sport shark fins on the engine cover with the number of the driver to help fans identify them better. Drivers have been given more control of the go sequence at the starting line, and those large screens that crews would wheel out to shield cars from the view of snoopy rivals during tests have been banned.

Alfa Romeo and Haas unveiled their cars early on Wednesday in the pitlane to complete the presentation of the new vehicles for this season.

Testing continues on Thursday and Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish GP, and again from Feb. 26-28.

The season-opening Australian GP is on March 15.