HAMILTON WILL BOUNCE BACK SAYS TEAM CHIEF

Lewis Hamilton will bounce back and take this year’s scrap for the drivers’ world championship down to the wire.

That, according to his Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, is because he is at his best when he has to fight back from adversity.

Wolff made this clear in the aftermath of Sunday’s dramatic Japanese Grand Prix won by Nico Rosberg, who opened up a 33-points lead over his team-mate and rival as Mercedes celebrated a hat-trick of teams’ titles.

As the team were taking action to complain that Dutch teenager Verstappen of Red Bull had driven in a dangerous manner by moving under braking to defend against Hamilton on the penultimate lap, Wolff was looking ahead.

"It's not over,” said Wolff. “There's four weekends to go. Lewis is going to regroup. We have seen that - remember when Nico won seven races in a row [over 2015-16] and then Lewis had that winning streak [six races from seven mid-season] before…

"He is very strong, he needs the enemy sometimes. That's how he functions. Lewis functions best when he is under pressure and he has a target. I have no doubt this will be an intense fight. It's going to go down to the end."

Hamilton has endured a tumultuous week on and off track. He retired from the lead in Malaysia, had a very poor start from the front row in Japan and also fell out with sections of the media after a furore over his Snapchat activities during a news conference.

He now needs to rely on events beyond his control to retain his crown – while Rosberg can take the title by finishing second in all four of the final races in Austin, Mexico, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi.

Wolff, however, does not believe there is any need for the champion to panic.

“Just after such a race like that is not the right moment to put the finger where it hurts,” he said. “We need to calm down and find out what happened, to regroup.

“My learning from the last couple of years is that 24 hours later things look completely different than they appeared an hour after the race.

“So our main emphasis will be building Lewis up. He is going to come back strong. We have 10 days before Austin [the US GP], it's not a rush like last week.

"Lewis in Malaysia was really on a roll, dominating the weekend and we let him down with the engine failure. During the week he was OK and then all these things came around the press conferences, but whether it affected him or not, I don't think so.

"It's just not his priority. I wouldn't put it down to that that his start didn't go well. His racing was great afterwards. How he recovered was really exceptional.”

It also emerged after the race that Verstappen was spoken to by F1® Race Director Charlie Whiting, and the stewards, about his defensive move against Hamilton.

The Dutchman was defending second place when he moved to ‘close the door’ on the entry to the final chicane.

Hamilton had to move to the left and ran down the escape road. He used team radio to complain that Verstappen had moved under braking.

Moving under braking is something the sport’s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) does not approve of and does not wish to become a common accepted practice.

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