Lewis Hamilton focused on retaining world title and fighting racism

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Lewis Hamilton
Britain's Lewis Hamilton is the second most successful F1 driver ever

Lewis Hamilton says he is focused on both winning the World Championship and fighting racism this year.

Formula 1 drivers stood against racism at the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix in which Hamilton finished fourth.

Hamilton said: "I don't feel like I need to refocus. My race was pretty strong. I need to do a better job but I wouldn't say I was distracted.

"I am focused on both - trying to fight and win this championship but also fighting for equal rights."

The Mercedes driver had a slightly messy weekend at the Austrian GP, receiving a three-place grid penalty after not slowing for yellow flags in qualifying and then a five-second penalty in the race for a collision with Red Bull's Alexander Albon.

The penalty demoted Hamilton to fourth place, while his team-mate Valtteri Bottas won the race and now has a 13-point lead over the Briton in the championship.

Hamilton said he had not decided whether to take the knee again at this weekend's Styrian Grand Prix at the same Red Bull Ring track.

But he pointed out that there was not a specific time set aside for such a gesture this weekend and that the build-up to the race did not provide much opportunity to do anything.

However, he added that it was "important" that the fight against racism remained prominent.

"We really have to continue to speak out, to utilise the moment to spread awareness and continue to push for change and that's not going to go away any time soon," Hamilton said.

"That's not going to change in a just a couple of weeks. So I will do my utmost.

"I am not against taking the knee again, so if I can find a way of making sure it doesn't get in the way of us doing our job, then I will."

Vettel's 2021 options narrowing

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who is without a drive for 2021 as things stand, said on Thursday that he would "probably" accept an offer of a drive at Red Bull if he was offered one.

But Max Verstappen, the team's lead driver, said he did not see any reason to replace his current team-mate Alexander Albon.

Verstappen had said on a television show on Monday, on which he appeared alongside Vettel, that he would be happy for the German four-time world champion to join Red Bull.

But on Thursday he said: "I was just trying to be polite and nice by saying I could imagine it, but at the moment the team is very happy with both of us and I am very happy with Alex.

"He is a very nice guy and he is good with set-up and feedback and I don't think there is any reason to change and [team boss] Christian [Horner] and Helmut [Marko, Red Bull motorsport adviser] would back that up."

Vettel's options for staying in the sport next year appear slim.

Following Renault's signing of Fernando Alonso for 2021 and 2022, announced on Wednesday, only Red Bull and Mercedes have potential openings.

But Mercedes have made it clear that their priority is to renew the contracts of Hamilton and Bottas.

Only if one of them failed to negotiate a deal would there be an opening for Vettel, who appears increasingly likely to be forced to step away for at least a year.