Hamilton hopes ‘dark cloud’ over his F1 season passes soon

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SHANGHAI (AP) Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton feels he has a “dark cloud” over him after his early-season struggles continued with a disappointing seventh-place finish at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, but the Mercedes driver is trying to stay positive with a long season ahead of him.

After dominating Formula One for much of the past two seasons, Hamilton has now failed to win in six straight races – his longest drought since 2013. His seventh-place finish in Shanghai is also his worst performance in a race that he’s completed since the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of 2013.

Hamilton’s troubles have come as his teammate, Nico Rosberg, has surged to the top, winning the past six races to take a 36-point lead over Hamilton in the drivers’ standings this season – 75 to 39.

It’s a large deficit to make up, but not as daunting as Hamilton initially thought.

“I thought it was 50 points,” he said with a laugh after the race.

Hamilton also trailed Rosberg by 29 points midway through the 2014 season and was able to win six of the final seven races to capture the championship. He said it might be harder to do the same this year, but hopefully not impossible.

“It doesn’t feel any nicer than it did back then. If anything, it feels worse perhaps now because it’s obviously just gone one negative after the other,” Hamilton said. “But, of course, there’s a long, long way to go. A lot’s going to happen. It’s just that I have no more jokers available, really.”

Hamilton’s season hasn’t lacked for drama. At the Australian Grand Prix, he got off to a poor start and finished runner-up to Rosberg. Then, at the Bahrain Grand Prix, there was another poor start and a collision with Valtteri Bottas at the first corner that left him with a damaged gearbox and a third-place finish.

On Saturday in Shanghai, Hamilton picked up a five-place grid penalty for making an early gearbox change, then failed to set a time in qualifying after a separate problem with his power unit, relegating him to the last row for the race.

Another collision in the first lap Sunday damaged the front wing of his car and led to the first of five pit stops for the British driver.

“Definitely never felt the dark cloud I’ve had over me right now,” Hamilton said. “Of course, it’s a trying time. For sure, lots of different emotions and thoughts are going through my mind. As you see the season start the wrong way, you see a championship which your goals and your eyes are focused on move further away from you as you’re approaching it.

“But this is a part of motor racing. If we fail this weekend, we’ll get up and try harder the next time.”