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Sports Lewis Hamilton upbeat ahead of Chinese Grand Prix despite five-place grid penalty

He has failed to win the first two races of the season, with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg taking the chequered flag in Australia and Bahrain.Now, because of a gearbox change, Hamilton must take a five-place grid penalty.

He has failed to win the first two races of the season, with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg taking the chequered flag in Australia and Bahrain.

Now, because of a gearbox change, Hamilton must take a five-place grid penalty. It means the best starting position the triple world champion can hope for in Shanghai is sixth.

This season has barely begun for Hamilton as he bids to become the first British driver to win four F1 world titles.

His last race victory came in October, when he won the drivers' title at the US Grand Prix. Rosberg, on the other hand, is on a run of five race victories which stretches back to November last season.

Each driver on such a run has gone on to win at least one world title and only three drivers, Sebastian Vettel (nine), Alberto Ascari (seven) and Michael Schumacher (seven), have won more than the six Rosberg would have should he triumph on Sunday.

Instead of the success he enjoyed this time last season, Hamilton has been the victim of widespread and heavy criticism following a host of social media selfies and, most recently, snaps of him smoking a shisha pipe.

So the question is inevitable; has Lewis Hamilton taken his eye off the ball?

Yet far from what many regard as a sulking personality - despite a jibe at his team-mate whom he expects to have "an easy weekend" - Hamilton was upbeat yesterday, displaying a rare maturity to turn a five-place grid penalty into a positive.

"I love racing, so I love coming through from the back," he said. "That's how I started. When I started, we had a c**p kart because it was all we could afford and I grew up doing this.

"I didn't start in a top team and that's what I love so much about my early days, starting further back. Maybe that's why I am in such a good mood because I'm going to have a race with some people.

"Maybe five years ago I'd have taken it as a negative but I now see it as a chance to shine, given the challenge to overcome and excel. It's to do with age, I guess [he is 31].

"It is going to be an easy weekend for Nico - but that does not mean I can't give him a good run for his money from wherever I start."

That last sentence is, without doubt, true. But slip up again this weekend - on a track where he has a record four race victories and can seal a hat-trick following wins in 2014 and 2015 - and the psychological edge handed to Rosberg, whether he triumphs or not, cannot be underestimated.

Yes we are only three races into a new season but, in a sport where margins are tiny, alarm bells would certainly start ringing.

Hamilton has finished second and third so far and Rosberg leads the title race with 50 points. Hamilton is second on 33. "The grid penalty doesn't mean I can't win the race," he said. "And that is my thought process, rather than damage limitation."

It is the only mentality he must have.

@GaryChappellDE

Express
15/04
1 Points
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