BRITAIN’S Lewis Hamilton admits he and his main rivals have already been reduced to racing for second place in this years drivers’ championship after Sebastian Vettel dominated the European Grand Prix in Valencia from start to finish.
The reigning world champion extended his lead at the head of the points table to 77 over his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber and Jenson Button, whose McLaren stable-mate Hamilton is 89 adrift.
Dejected Hamilton, who held off Felipe Massa’s fast-finishing Ferrari to take fourth, said afterwards: “It’s finished really. In the sense of the championship it’s almost over already.”
After the drama of the Canadian Grand Prix a fortnight ago all eyes were on the 23-year-old German, who lost the lead in Montreal on the final lap, to see if his crown was in danger of slipping.
But Vettel answered his doubters in emphatic fashion – finishing 10.8secs ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – to lead from lights to flag and record his sixth win from eight races this season.
“It looked like a boring race, but I enjoyed it so much,” said Vettel (right).
“For every single lap it was just me and the car. The team have done a phenomenal job preparing the car.
“We managed to put everything together and I’m very happy with the result.”
The same could not be said of McLaren duo Hamilton and Button who head into their native race at Silverstone next month having all but written off their chances of treating British fans to a home victory.
“I’m not looking forward to it, I’m really not looking forward to it,” said Hamilton, who struggled with tyre wear yesterday. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the fans, but we’re not fast enough, and with the regulations changing I personally think we’re going to make another step backwards”
And on the incoming rule change which will see a ban on off-throttle blown diffusers implemented, he added: “I’m a little bit nervous about it. I think we might be affected more than the two teams ahead of us (Red Bull and Ferrari). It will be even worse for us.”
Button, in stark contrast to his mood following victory in Canada was similarly downbeat with Silverstone around the corner.
He said: “We need some upgrades for Silverstone otherwise we’re not going to be fighting the Ferraris and Red Bulls, which will be a shame at my home grand prix.
“We can take some risks with some new parts, and hopefully we’ll have that when we get there.
“So we need to get our heads down and improve the car, the package.”