Lewis Hamilton
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Lewis Hamilton sets sights on fifth F1 title in last six years; 6th overall

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TURIN, Italy — At the age of 34 and with five world titles, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton is still showing no sign of waning motivation.

His competitive spirit was clear to see at an event for Mercedes’ sponsors in Turin on Friday.

Taking part in a `pit-stop challenge’ with teammate Valtteri Bottas, where the pair had to help change a tire on an F1 car several times, Hamilton was eager to beat the Finnish driver on every occasion, despite it counting for little.

And it is that drive and determination he will take into the new season.

“I’ve just come off my break. I missed work. I’m a workaholic,” Hamilton said at Petronas’ $60 million research and technology center. “I love being at work, I like working with people. I feel that as soon as I get back to work I’m living my purpose.

“Ultimately I just love driving. I don’t love testing. I just want to go racing. I don’t struggle with the motivation for that.”

Hamilton has won the title in four of the past five seasons and secured it by his biggest margin of 88 points last season after Sebastian Vettel’s poor second half of the campaign.

However, this year could be one of the toughest yet for the British driver.

The first week of testing ended Thursday with Ferrari looking to be a step ahead of Mercedes. Vettel and Charles Leclerc – who replaced Kimi Raikkonen – were among the fastest drivers in the first week of testing in Spain, with Hamilton and Bottas unable to keep pace.

Max Verstappen is also expected to push for the title. The 21-year-old Red Bull driver finished fourth last season, above Bottas, and was only two points away from beating Raikkonen.

“I have no idea at the moment,” Hamilton said when asked who would be his main rival. “I’ve not been looking at what they’ve been doing but I have to assume that they’re all currently contenders, there’s not just one of them and I’ll find out when we get to the first couple of races.

“Probably the first four races you’ll get an understanding of the true pace and the consistency of the cars and the drivers.”

Verstappen and Leclerc – who is the same age – are tipped to follow Hamilton and Vettel as F1’s next stars.

Leclerc earned a prestigious move to Ferrari following strong performances for unheralded Sauber in his debut F1 season and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he reminds him of Hamilton when he first came into F1 in 2007.

But while Hamilton admits certain aspects of racing are harder with age, he also believes nothing replaces experience.

“Each year, getting in shape, getting your mind into gear is still a massive challenge if not harder each year as you get older so once you get over that wall its pretty good after that,” he said.

“When I first started I was just a kid, I was 22. I had all the talent that I needed, but I didn’t have the experience. So it was all raw, wild adrenaline and ambition without really a particular strategy. Over the years you gain knowledge and experience and that helps solidify that foundation.”

Testing will continue Tuesday-Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix is on March 17, where Hamilton will start his bid to become only the second driver to win more than five world championships – behind only seven-time winner Michael Schumacher.

“Each year hopefully the goal is always to get better,” Hamilton said. “The more competition the better, you always want to be against the best at their best because when you beat them it’s more painful for them and more enjoyable for you.”

IndyCar’s season finale at St. Pete approved to have 20,000 fans

IndyCar St. Pete fans
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The NTT IndyCar Series’ season finale will be permitted up to 20,000 fans, making the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg possibly the circuit’s most well-attended race of 2020. The race originally was scheduled as the season opener before being moved to Oct. 25 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

IndyCar has enjoyed limited crowds at Road America, Iowa Speedway, Gateway, Mid-Ohio and this weekend’s doubleheader races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which could have up to 10,000 fans in attendance. That had been the largest maximum grandstand crowd for an IndyCar race this season.

At a St. Petersburg city council meeting Thursday, Mayor Rick Kriseman approved plans by race organizers Green Savoree Racing Promotions to hold the Oct. 23-25 weekend for the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Pete with 20,000 fans who would follow health and safety protocols that include mandatory temperature checks and masks.

 “My thanks to Green Savoree Racing Promotions and IndyCar for their flexibility and resilience during this challenging time,” Kriseman said in a release. “I know that everyone is excited to get back on the track in St. Pete. I can’t wait for Oct. 23rd. I know everyone will embrace this race the St. Pete way, adhering to the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Let’s have some great racing in the Sunshine City.”

Paddock and the pit lane will remain closed to spectators, and social distancing of at least 6 feet will be observed on site.

“Our entire team greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of our ticket holders as we worked through this process with Mayor Kriseman, City Council and local health officials,” Kim Green, co-owner, chairman and CEO of Green Savoree Promotions. “It’s important for everyone who attends to read and follow all the COVID-19 protocols to contribute to a fun, safe and successful event for us all.”

“The ongoing guidance and support of Mayor Kriseman, City Council, and the City of St. Petersburg’s event team have been phenomenal,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Promotions. “We also would not be in this position to move this spring tradition to fall without Firestone’s unwavering commitment and dedication. It’s going to be a terrific weekend again in downtown St. Pete in three weeks featuring world-class racing from INDYCAR.”