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Hamilton says Mercedes will have earned F1 title despite Ferrari mistakes

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that another Formula One championship would be one earned by him and Mercedes – not one thrown away by Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel won the first two races of 2018 to set up what promised to be a dramatic chase for a fifth career championship between him and Hamilton. Now Hamilton’s dominant second half of the season, helped by a rash of mistakes by Vettel and Ferrari, has the Mercedes driver set to win the crown even if he finishes as low as seventh Sunday.

“I see a lot of people write a lot of stories saying things have been `handed’ to Mercedes this season,” Hamilton said. “That naturally takes away from the job the team and I have done.”

Vettel has taken criticism over Ferrari’s season of miscues. That includes last week at the U.S. Grand Prix, won by his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen while Vettel missed the podium.

Vettel said the driver with the most points at the end of the season deservedly wins the title. Saying another driver lost it wouldn’t be fair, he said.

“For the words to come from a four-time world champion, that’s positive to hear,” Hamilton said in advance of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. “He’s been a great competitor this year. It’s been so hot for both of us. I look forward to many more years of us racing together right at the top.”

Ferrari’s blunders certainly made Hamilton’s season easier. There have been crashes, pit stop and tire mistakes, and practice penalties that cost Ferrari wins and race position.

Vettel’s last victory came in Belgium six races ago and he’s missed the podium three times in the last five. The U.S. Grand Prix included Vettel’s three-spot starting grid penalty and an early-lap bump with Red Bull’s Daniel Riccardo that caused him to spin.

Vettel had the car for the podium in Texas, maybe even the win, but he didn’t have the patience.

Other drivers on the grid were reluctant to criticize Vettel’s season, but noted the German might have driven too hard out of desperation..

“I think Sebastian is a fantastic driver. It’s very hard to judge the performance of someone when you’re not on the team and you don’t know exactly what is going on,” said Force India’s Sergio Perez. “Obviously we have seen some mistakes. Probably at the end he was just desperate, trying to achieve what was probably not possible, but he’s a four-time world champion.”

Raikkonen, who has only three races left with Ferrari before he switches to Sauber in 2019, tread lightly.

“Sometimes it happens and he pushes and he pushes and he pushes and sometimes he gets it wrong and unfortunately it happened to him a few times,” Raikkonen said. “I think we’ve all gone through it. It’s part of the game.”

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Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

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One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

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