Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton plays down F1 title chances

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Lewis Hamilton is refusing to get carried away by the prospect of a third Formula One world championship after extending his lead over Nico Rosberg by storming to victory at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Hamilton is now 28 points ahead of his Mercedes team-mate with eight races remaining after his first win at this most historic of races in five years.

Holding off the challenge from the Force India of Sergio Perez on the run down to Les Combes - the scene of his collision with Rosberg here last year - pole-sitter Hamilton never looked back, and from there he made it look easy.

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Hamilton left this race last year trailing Rosberg by 29 points and still went on to win the title. On Sunday night he left the iconic Spa-Francorchamps with clear daylight between him and the German.

But the 30-year-old warned it is not a forgone conclusion he will become the first British driver to successfully defend his F1 crown.

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"It is definitely way too early for that," Hamilton said, following his sixth victory of the season and the 39th of his career.

"You want to get those pole positions and translate them into wins and hopefully today is the beginning of that, so I am looking forward to the next races.

"Nico had good pace but I was able to answer most of the time, so I was fairly relaxed at the front."

New procedures

Upon F1's return to action after a four-week summer break, much had been made of the new start procedures.

The responsibility was being placed back in the hands of drivers - as opposed to the boffins sitting on the pit wall - and the premise was that it would lead to unpredictable starts and more dynamic racing.

And of the two Mercedes men sitting on the front row, it was Hamilton who after a hat-trick of sluggish starts, appeared to revel in the new directive.

In contrast, Rosberg was gobbled up on the run down to turn one to leave him in fifth. It was always going to be an uphill struggle from there.

"The start was really bad so I need to practice that," said Rosberg who recovered to finish second. "I was trying to hunt Lewis down but he did a great job and it wasn't enough."

Surprise star

Joining the Mercedes duo on the podium was the surprise name of Romain Grosjean - the Lotus driver a beneficiary of Sebastian Vettel's tyre blowout on the penultimate lap.

Vettel, in his 150th race, was the only driver to attempt a one-strop strategy after starting from ninth - but it backfired in spectacular fashion and he finished outside of the points.

His tyre failure was the second of the weekend, and the German issued a scathing attack on Pirelli - Formula One's sole tyre supplier - after the race.

''Things like that are not allowed to happen, full stop,'' said Vettel. ''If it happens 200 metres earlier, I am not standing here now."

Vettel outrage

The four-time champion was among a number of drivers to voice his concerns to Pirelli following Rosberg's 190mph tyre failure here on Friday. Pirelli claimed the damage was caused by debris or a kerb.

Speaking to the BBC, Vettel added: ''If Nico tells us he did not go off the track, he didn't go off the track, why should he lie to us? It is the same with me, I didn't go off the track - it is out of the blue the tyre exploded - and as I said if this happens earlier than I am f****d. It is not acceptable.''

Vettel's ensuing media commitments were scrapped. There was a media blackout at Williams, too in the wake of Valtteri Bottas' botched pit stop.

His team fitted three option and one prime tyre on Bottas' car. The different compounds are defined by yellow for option, and white for the prime. He was hit with a drive-through penalty for the embarrassing gaffe and his race was scuppered.

The threat of rain lingered throughout the race but arrived one hour after the chequered flag. Surely nobody will rain on Hamilton's title parade now.

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Formula 1

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