F1: 2011 Japanese Grand Prix ‘shocking’ for Hamilton
PUBLISHED: 15:28 09 October 2011 | UPDATED: 16:02 09 October 2011
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton called his 2011 Japanese Grand Prix a “shocking race” after finishing only fifth at Suzuka.
"We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint."
The 2008 F1 world champion from Hertfordshire suffered a slow puncture early on after climbing into second place off the start line.
He later collided with bitter Ferrari rival Felipe Massa, although this time he escaped unpunished by the stewards.
His Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team-mate Jenson Button eventually claimed an emotional victory ahead of the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.
Sebastian Vettel took the final podium spot and third place was good enough for the Red Bull hero to secure back-to-back world championships.
2011 Japanese Grand Prix Result
1 Jenson Button (McLaren)
2 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
3 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
4 Mark Webber (Red Bull)
5 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
6 Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)
7 Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
8 Sergio Perez (Sauber)
“Bit of a shocking race to be honest,” said Hamilton on BBC afterwards.
“But Jenson did a fantastic job and it was great for the team points.
“And obviously congratulations to Sebastian [Vettel] – we knew that was going to happen but it was a bit of a perfect season for him.”
Having started from third on the grid, Hamilton loss two places around the awesome Suzuka circuit.
The Herts-born driver added: “This was a disappointing race for me, but it was a great day for Jenson and the whole team.
“Jenson did a remarkable job today – he really deserved this victory, but it wasn’t a great one for me.
“Still, I’m going to keep my head up and look ahead to the next race where I’ll hopefully have another chance.”
Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, acknowledged it was a difficult day for Hamilton, with the puncture the main cause of that.
Hamilton’s team boss said: “We weren’t immediately aware that Lewis appeared to suffer a slow puncture to the right-rear in the first stint.
“That created a growing pressure differential across the rear axle, and potentially led us to add too much front wing to compensate for the lack of balance at the rear.
“In hindsight, that may have led to Lewis fighting to find a satisfactory balance for the next two stints as we attempted to restore the set-up he’d enjoyed during the previous two days.”
Whitmarsh added: “It was a challenging afternoon for Lewis, but he never gave up, kept pushing and scored some strong points for the team.
“He had the pace this weekend, so I’m sure he’ll be as tough as ever in Korea next weekend.”
Hamilton also apologised afterwards to Massa for their incident out on track.
“In the race, I don’t really know what happened with Felipe – the car’s mirrors vibrate at high-speed, so I couldn’t see him pulling alongside me,” said Hamilton.
“I want to apologise for our cars’ touching, but fortunately nothing happened to either of us.
“There was no bad intention towards Felipe; I’ve got the utmost respect for him, he’s a fantastic driver and he was extremely quick today.”
While Hamilton must pick himself up again for next weekend’s race in Korea, team-mate Button heads to Yeongam buoyed by a brilliant victory in Japan.
After taking the Suzuka chequered flag, a jubilant Button said: “It’s such an emotional victory for me: there’s so much history at this circuit, and the crowd here has been amazing, this is second only to a home victory for me.”
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