Hamilton, Bottas
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Hamilton pledges no repeat of Rosberg F1 feud with Bottas

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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) — Given how dominant the two Mercedes cars have been in Formula One this season, it seems the only thing that could stop the Silver Arrows at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix might be another outbreak of infighting.

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have swept the top two spots at the first four races of the year, and Mercedes has also won the Spanish GP in all but one of the last five seasons. The only time it didn’t happen during that span was in 2016, when Hamilton and then-teammate Nico Rosberg collided on the opening lap on the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit – one of several incidents during a season-long feud between the two.

Bottas now looks like the only real threat to Hamilton winning a sixth F1 title, as he leads his British teammate by one point after the two earned two wins each so far. Hamilton, though, said the two are determined to avoid another flare-up of in-house rivalry and have agreed to not put the team at risk.

“There are things that happen in the background that you won’t know and I don’t really feel this is the place to talk about it,” Hamilton said Thursday at the Mercedes motorhome. “But what is really important is that we have pulled together as a team. We’ve discussed it and hopefully rectified it. … As for what happened before (with Rosberg), an individual just continued to go down that route. But that is not we have here. We have a great energy with the team, the respect is there. We have an agreed rule set so that we do finish the race one two.”

Even so, Hamilton said if Bottas wanted to overtake him, he would have to earn it.

“Yes. It is going to be close and tight, and there is always tension when you want to beat someone else,” Hamilton said. “We will not be touching, that’s for sure. But in terms of giving up positions, that will not happen again.”

And at age 34, Hamilton said his maturity is also helping create more harmony within the team.

“Naturally it is three years later so I have grown a lot since then,” Hamilton said. “I am a lot stronger person standalone outside the car, as well as inside the car. I am much better at knowing how to manage personal relationships, and understanding how to work with people. I think I am a much better team player than I have ever been in my career.”

Hamilton won here in 2014 and the past two years, while Rosberg took it in 2015. Ferrari may have to break that streak, though, if it wants to get involved in the title race. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is already 35 points behind in the standings but is hoping a new engine could help close the gap.

The Ferraris were the fastest cars at preseason testing on this same track in the winter, only to see Mercedes jump ahead once the real racing began.

“I know we are behind, but at this point of the year it doesn’t matter by how much. It’s quite straight forward: we need to start scoring more points,” Vettel said. “The latter we start doing that the worse it looks.”

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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