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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.”

Dakar Stage 8 Highlights: Ricky Brabec blows engine, retires

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The motorcycle class of the Dakar Rally has been a seesaw affair through seven stages, but Ricky Brabec seemed poised to win the class for the USA. Until he blew an engine in Stage 8 that is – and gave up a more-than seven second lead. He was the second rider to retire after starting the stage as the leader. Joan Barreda retired in Stage 3.

Brabec was looking to become the first American rider to win in 27 years, but his fate was eerily similar to last year. Three days from the end of the stage, he retired about 50 kilometers into the stage, which is precisely when and where he retired in 2018.

With Brabec’s trouble, Toby Price leapfrogged from third to second in class despite riding with a metal pin in his wrist. In the world’s most grueling endurance event, it has never been more obvious that it isn’t over till it’s over.

Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to run a consistent rally. With a 46 minute advantage over Nani Roma and Sebastien Loeb, all he needs to do is stay error free for the final two stages to win his third Dakar.

Here are some of the other highlights:

In the cars class, Sebastien Loeb scored his fifth stage win of the Rally by seven minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but problems in Stage 3 have kept him from being competitive for the overall lead. … Jakub Przygonski earned his third podium of the Rally. All of these have been third-place finishes.

Class Leaders: Al-Attiyah holds an advantage of 46:29 over Roma and 46:45 over Loeb.

In motorcycles, Ricky Brabec’s blown engine opened up the class once more. … Matthias Walkner narrowly edged Pablo Quintanilla by 45 seconds. … But it was Toby Price’s third-place finish that helped elevate him to the class lead. … Sam Sunderland was supposed to blaze the path for the riders, but a malfunctioning navigation system kept him from rolling off first. Blazing the trail is a disadvantage and officials adjudged him to have tampered with his system to avoid that fate. Sunderland was penalized an hour to finish 35th on the stage. He dropped to ninth in class.

Class Leaders: Price inherited the lead over Quintanilla by 1:03 and 6:35 over Walkner

In side by sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo scored the victory over Cristian Baumgart by 4:47. … Gerard Farres Guell rounded out the top three.

Class Leaders: Contardo holds an advantage 0f 54:10 over Rodrigo Piazolli and one hour, 08:09 over Guell

In quads, there was no surprise in Nicolas Cavigliasso winning his seventh stage of the season. … He padded his overall advantage over Gustavo Gallego by more than nine minutes. … Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli finished third.

Class Leaders: Cavigliasso holds and advantage of one hour, 24:52 over Ferioli and one hour, 44:04 over Gallego

In trucks, Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage to take over the class lead. He beat Ton Van Genugten by 22:01. … Siarhei Viazovich rounded out the top three. … Eduard Nikolaev lost the class lead by finishing eighth – nearly one hour behind Sotnikov.

Class Leaders: Sotnikov holds an advantage of 26:49 over and one hour, 7:43 over Gerard de Rooy

Stage Wins

Motorcycles
Sam Sunderland [2] (Stage 5 and 7), Matthias Walkner [2] (Stage 2 and 8), Joan Barreda [1] (Stage 1), Xavier de Soultrait [1] (Stage 3), Ricky Brabec [1] (Stage 4) and Pablo Quintanilla [1] (Stage 6)

Quads
Nicolas Cavigliasso [7] (Stage 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) and Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli [1] (Stage 3)

Cars
Sebastien Loeb [4] (Stage 2, 5, 6 and 8), Nasser Al-Attiyah [2] (Stage 1 and 4) and Stephane Peterhansel [2] (Stage 3 and 7)

Side-by-sides
Francisco Lopez Contardo [4] (Stage 2, 6, 7 and 8), Reinaldo Varela [1] (Stage 1), Gerard Farres Guell [1] (Stage 3), Sergei Kariakin [1] (Stage 4) and Rodrigo Piazzoli [1] (Stage 5)

Trucks
Eduard Nikolaev [3] (Stage 1, 2 and 5), Andrey Karginov [2] (Stage 3 and 4), Dmitry Sotnikov [2] (Stage 6 and 8) and Gerard de Rooy [1] (Stage 7)

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