Lewis Hamilton driving career
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F1’s pandemic pause might extend Lewis Hamilton’s career ‘2 to 3 years’

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SILVERSTONE, England — The pandemic-enforced break from Formula One could prolong the driving career of Lewis Hamilton.

“The COVID-19 lockdown, whilst it was a negative, in some ways it gave a lot of life, a lot of energy to focus on some other things,” Hamilton, 35, said Thursday, “and that time off was a bit of breathing space, and provided a bit of energy to perhaps go longer.”

How much longer for the six-time world champion, who is in his 14th season?

“Ultimately I want to be able to perform at the level I am right now but there is a point at which the physicality and the mental side can tail off,” he said. “I’ve no divine right to be here. My goal is to continue to deliver for as long as I can. So I do see myself going for at least another two or three years.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes contract is due to expire in five months.

“I want to earn my position here,” Hamilton said, “and I feel like every year that is not a given just because I’ve world championships under my belt.”

He heads into the British Grand Prix on Sunday as the favorite to win at his home circuit of Silverstone for a seventh time but for the first time without any fans there to cheer him because of the pandemic. The race is the fourth in a championship that should have begun in March. The coronavirus has hit the Silverstone race with Sergio Perez forced out after testing positive on Thursday.

The bid by Lewis Hamilton for a record-equalling seventh world championship in his driving career – to match Michael Schumacher – has been playing out against the backdrop of his personal fight against racism.

After dominating the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this month, Hamilton then accused Grand Prix Drivers’ Association director Romain Grosjean of failing to convince the grid to be united in kneeling before the race.

Grosjean spoke to Hamilton for 45 minutes Tuesday, saying that he wanted to provide a voice for as many as eight drivers who were opposed to the anti-racism stance. But he also apologized to Hamilton for indicating that it might have been the wrong call.

“Romain originally reached out to me and we had a great conversation,” Hamilton said. “We learned we had more in common than we perhaps thought. He is clearly a caring person. It’s not easy for anybody to admit they’re wrong. And that’s a great first step.

“We’re really working towards the same end goal so I really appreciate that from Romain. And that’s really what it is going to take from all of us; open up our minds, don’t put barriers up, don’t be defensive, be open-minded. Acknowledging that there is an issue is sometimes the first step and then work towards making it better.”

Hamilton also has been in dialogue with F1 chairman Chase Carey and FIA president Jean Todt this week. The pit lane will open 10 minutes earlier than normal on Sunday to allow the drivers time for a more organized demonstration against racism ahead of the race.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc are among those drivers who have stood rather than taking a knee.

“Everybody has their own way of expressing it,” Verstappen said. “We are all united in fighting racism and that is the most important thing. It is not about taking a knee or not taking a knee because that is not going to solve the issue.”

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.