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Tricks of the trade? Hamilton worried by Ferrari extra speed

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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) Moments after the end of Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton walked alongside the Ferrari of winning driver Sebastian Vettel and peered inside the car.

It was only a quick glance, but comments made by Hamilton shortly afterward revealed his concern at where Formula One rival Ferrari’s extra speed on the straights is coming from.

“They have got a few trick things going on in the car,” the British driver said in a trackside interview.

Asked later to clarify his comments, Hamilton was keen to distance himself from sounding suspicious, or suggesting Ferrari has infringed the rules in any way.

“I’m not saying it’s anything illegal. Trick is just something that helps you bring that extra performance … Please don’t twist my words,” Hamilton said. “We all have trick things on our cars. Trick is just a word for something special, I guess. I don’t know what’s on their car, so I couldn’t say (if it is illegal or legal) either way.”

Although Hamilton finished 12 seconds behind Vettel in second place, that margin was made larger by the fact Hamilton eased up in the closing laps because he knew he could not catch Vettel and was saving the engine for races ahead, starting next weekend at the Italian GP in Monza. Following that, Ferrari has another fast track well suited to it at Singapore.

“We might struggle to match them there (in Singapore),” said Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 17 points with eight races left. They are both chasing a fifth F1 title to move level with Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio.

Heading into this weekend’s race at Spa, nestled in the Ardennes Forest, both Ferrari and Mercedes had brought upgrades to their cars. But Hamilton sounded confused why Mercedes is slower than Ferrari.

“We came here with a pretty good upgrade, and I mean generally every time we do bring an upgrade they bring a bigger one,” Hamilton said. “We knew they were quicker on the straights. We’ve known for the last four races so they’ve had some things in their car to enable them to be quicker on the straights. We’ve got to work harder, I guess.”

Although Hamilton seemed to distance himself from his initial “trick” comment, he continued to query where the power comes from.

“In both stints he had a little more pace than me,” Hamilton said. “They deploy (more) power somehow than us. Not really sure how, but that’s how they are.”

Vettel, who was sat next to Hamilton in the post-race news conference, responded calmly when asked if his car has extra power.

“I hope so. I hope we have more power. That’s what we’re working for. We’ve been making progress the last two years (so that’s) good news,” the German driver said. “I wouldn’t disagree in terms of power this year we are closer (than last year) … It’s good to see we are making progress.”

NBCSN will present ‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ Monday

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With motor racing reckoning with its own issues of diversity and equality, “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” will tackle the topics of social justice with several athletes. The show will air at 8 p.m. ET Monday, July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic channel and on regional sports networks.

The roundtable discussions will be hosted by Damon Hack and feature Charles Barkley, Steph Curry, Jimmy Rollins and Ozzie Smith in one segment. The other segment will include Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Lynn, Troy Mullins and James Blake.

Race has been a major topic in motorsports this year.

NASCAR banned the Confederate flag at its race after lobbying by Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver in the premier Cup Series. In Formula One, six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton has joined Black Lives Matter marches in London and also formed a panel on diversity. The lone Black driver in F1 also led 14 of 20 drivers taking a knee before the season opener in Austria.