F1: Lewis Hamilton targets 2012 Japanese Grand Prix victory
PUBLISHED: 21:41 29 September 2012 | UPDATED: 21:59 29 September 2012
HAVING confirmed his decision to quit McLaren for rivals Mercedes next season, Lewis Hamilton is looking to finish the 2012 Formula 1 season in style, starting with victory in next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
McLaren at the Japanese Grand Prix
* Wins: 9 (1977, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2011)
* Poles: 6 (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2007, 2008)
* Fastest Laps: 8 (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2011)
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire confirmed yesterday (Friday) his move to the Silver Arrows for the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.
But he’s determined to give it is all for McLaren over the final six grands prix of the current campaign in an effort to overhaul Fernando Alonso and claim his second world title for the team.
“There are six more races, and I need to go and win all six,” said Hamilton after the Singapore GP. “I’ll fight until the end.”
Hamilton heads to Suzuka for next Sunday’s 2012 Grand Prix of Japan fourth in the drivers’ standings, 52 points behind Ferrari star Alonso, following his retirement from the Singapore night race.
“In terms of the championship, there’s nothing to really be gained by analysing the points tables, from now on, it’s simply gloves-off,” said Hamilton.
“As in Singapore, I’ll come out fighting, I’ll just be hoping for a better result next weekend.”
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh is quietly confident of claiming good points in Japan.
He said: “Despite Lewis’s retirement from the last race, our performance in Singapore was encouraging for the whole team; it showed that we have a car that can fight for victory on a wide range of circuits, and we’re confident of once again challenging at the front in Japan next weekend.”
"In terms of the championship, there’s nothing to really be gained by analysing the points tables, from now on, it’s simply gloves-off."
The famous Suzuka Circuit is one of the most revered racetracks in the world. Its undulations, fast sweeps and unique figure-of-eight layout require total commitment from the drivers, and victory, perhaps unsurprisingly, is confined to the world’s best.
World champions have won 16 out of the last 17 races at Suzuka – an astonishing statistic.
A good car is vital, as aerodynamic efficiency and strong balance are rewarded in all three sectors of the lap. Sector one features the Esses, a sequence of five high-speed corners similar to Becketts at Silverstone.
The middle sector includes the high-speed downhill left-hander called Spoon and sector three is made up of a long straight back towards the pits.
2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka
* Race distance: 53 laps (191.054 miles/307.471km)
* Start time* 15.00 (local)/07:00 BST
* Circuit length: 3.608 miles/5.807km
* 2011 winner: Jenson Button (McLarens) 53 laps in 1hr 30m 53.427s (202.972km/h)
* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m30.466s (231.083km/h)
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m 31.540s (228.372km/h)
Suzuka is also the only circuit on the 2012 calendar that features a downhill start-finish straight.
This presents the drivers with a tricky balancing act at the start, when they have to hold their cars on the brakes until they release the clutch. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of jumped starts than at any other venue.
Hamilton won big in Japan in 2007 – at the country’s other F1 track at Fuji Speedway – and was third on his Suzuka debut in 2009.
“When I first raced here in 2009, I couldn’t believe a place like this could still exist in Formula 1 – it still feels like a proper old-school circuit,” said the Stevenage-born motor racer. “It doesn’t have the polish or finesse of an ultra-modern track – but is all the better for it.
Lewis Hamilton factfile
* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)
* GPs: 104
* Wins: 20
* Poles: 24
* Fasest Laps: 11
* 2012 points: 142 (4th)
“It’s fantastically quick, too, and very difficult to master. It’s an unforgiving place, and it also has that special atmosphere that you only get in Japan, for some reason.
“I think that’s due to the fans – they’re what make any visit to a racetrack in Japan feel so special. They’re very passionate about Formula 1, but also extremely polite and friendly – they make you feel very special every day when you’re going in and out of the circuit.”
McLaren has a long history of success in Japan, having clinched seven world championships at the Japanese Grand Prix and Hamilton’s current teammate, Jenson Button, won the race last year.
That victory had added poignancy for Button, who has a Japanese girlfriend and spends a lot of his time in the country.
2012 Drivers’ Championship
1 Fernando Alonso 194 pts
2 Sebastian Vettel 165
3 Kimi Räikkönen 149
4 Lewis Hamilton 142
5 Mark Webber 133
6 Jenson Button 119
7 Nico Rosberg 93
8 Romain Grosjean 82
9 Sergio Pérez 65
10 Felipe Massa 51
11 Paul Di Resta 44
12 Michael Schumacher 43
Button said: “All of my grand prix wins have felt special, but winning at Suzuka in 2011, at the first grand prix held in Japan since the terrible tsunami last March, was an achievement that still makes me feel incredibly proud and emotional.
“As everybody knows, Japan means a lot to me. It’s a place I love, I’ve been here so many times – for business and pleasure – and I still feel that wide-eyed awe and deep emotion for a country that exists so comfortably on so many different levels.”
Of his team’s chances, Button said: “We go to Japan with a car that I feel convinced can fight for victory – it should be another good weekend for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes.”
Team boss Whitmarsh added: “Suzuka is a very special circuit, a place where some of the greatest chapters in McLaren’s history have been written over the past 25 years.
“Of all our achievements there, I look back at Jenson’s victory last year with particular fondness and satisfaction.
“It was an extremely tense afternoon, and the victory was a perfect team effort – Jenson drove with all the measured aggression we’ve come to expect, and his back-up from the team was superb.”
A similar performance for Hamilton next week will revive his chances of claiming the F1 drivers’ championship.
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