F1 2012: Hamilton 'turfed' out of title race after Korean Grand Prix woe
PUBLISHED: 20:11 14 October 2012 | UPDATED: 12:59 17 November 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton has all but conceded defeat in the 2012 title race after finishing only 10th in the Korean Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire claimed just one point at the Korea International Circuit on Sunday as Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag.
Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion now leads the drivers’ standings by six points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who was third in Korea.
Vettel has 215 points to his name after three successive wins, while Hamilton is a distant fourth on 153 points – 14 behind third-placed Kimi Raikkonen – with just four races to go.
“In terms of winning the world championship, logic suggests that that’s probably it for me,” said Hamilton.
“Having said that, there are a lot of points still up for grabs, so I’ll keep pushing. Stranger things have happened, and I’ll never give up.”
Hamilton, the 2008 F1 world champion, started third on the Korean grid, but had to stop three times for tyres, on laps 13, 26 and 42, suffered problems with his McLaren’s rear suspension and eventually crossed the finishing line with Astroturf from the track stuck to his car.
After just holding off the Sauber of Sergio Perez, the man who will replace him at McLaren next season, Hamilton said: “I’m exhausted.
“I was told after the race that my car had suffered a rear anti-roll bar failure a few laps into the second stint.
“It was safe to drive – and I was trying my best with it, pushing all the way – but it was extremely hard to maintain a good pace.
“The balance was switching from corner to corner, the car was moving around along the straights, and it was eating up the tyres, which meant we lost further ground by being forced onto a three-stop strategy.”
He added “To make things even more difficult, I then picked up some stray run-off Astroturf, which tangled itself around my sideboard winglet for the final few laps.
“It stalled the diffuser – so I had no rear downforce at the end, which made it even trickier to hang on to 10th place.”
The Stevenage-born racer added: “It doesn’t feel great to experience days like these, but every cloud has a silver lining.
“Put it this way: it’s good to see what’s in your heart when you keep fighting. Days like these show the true spirit within.”
Hamilton’s team boss praised his dogged drive for a solitary point.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “Lewis may have scored only a single world championship point this afternoon, but I’m happy to be quoted as saying that it was probably the hardest won and most heroically fought world championship point in McLaren’s long history.
“His car suffered a rear anti-roll bar failure early on – and that destroyed his car’s handling balance and made it impossible for him to look after his tyres.
“The fact that he nonetheless hung on in there, through thick and thin, battling wheel to wheel with drivers whose cars were undamaged, was truly mighty.
“Then, finally, to add insult to injury, he picked up a strip of stray run-off Astroturf, and that further compromised his car’s performance – yet, even so, despite not being able to shake it off as it flapped about in the air-stream, he still clung on to 10th place.
“Believe me, it was an epic, stirring, majestic drive.”
Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button retired on the opening lap and is sixth in the championship on 131 points.
“I no longer have a realistic chance to win the world championship, so I’ll be enjoying myself over the final four races,” said Button.
“Scoring points for the team in the constructors’ world championship will be the most important priority, so I’ll be focusing on picking up as many as I possibly can.”
Whitmarsh admitted it wasn’t McLaren’s greatest grand prix.
He said: “Today wasn’t a good day at the office, obviously. But motor racing is like that sometimes. And we’ll fight on. That’s what Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ incredible team spirit is all about.
“That’s why McLaren has won one in four of all the grands prix that have been staged since our team first entered world championship grand prix racing 46 long years ago.
“And that’s why we’ll be moving heaven and earth to win the four grands prix that still remain this year.
“It won’t be easy, but I promise you we’ll all be giving it our very best shot.”
It’s the 2012 Indian Grand Prix next on Sunday, October 28.