2 APRIL 11 2012
2 APRIL 11 2012 motorsport-news.co.uk motorsport-news.co.uk
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FORTEC STEAMS AHEAD IN F3 TITLE BATTLE
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Daventry team outpaces Carlin in season opener
CITROEN BACKS DOWN OVER HIRVONEN EXCLUSION
French squad withdraws its appeal over Portugal win
SKODA STAR MIKKELSEN FALLS JUST
Juho Hänninen fends off IRC champion’s challenge
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Lewis pledges to open his 2012 victory
ByRob Ladbrook Lewis Hamilton says that he is fired up to fight for his fist grand prix victory of the season in China this weekend, and believes that the troubles of last year have taught him to be amore patient driver. Hamilton heads into this weekend’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit in a rich vein of form. McLaren has been the star of qualifying so far this season, having locked out the front row for both grands prix so far this season. Hamilton has started both races from pole position but has yet to convert the advantage into a race win. He lost out to team-mate Jenson Button in Australia and Fernando Alonso in Malaysia.
The 2009 world champion said he was confident of an upturn in his fortunes this weekend: “I won’t deny that I’m disappointed to have had two pole positions and not been able to convert either of them into victories, but I prefer to think that luck just hasn’t been onmy side so far. But that will swing in my favour sooner rather than later.”
Hamilton out front Although he has yet to score his first victory, Hamilton sits second in the points – just five behind Ferrari’s Alonso. McLaren has made the strongest start to the year, with its MP4-27 challenger initially being the quickest overall package. The team also has a strong history in China. During Red Bull’s domination last year, McLaren and Hamilton managed to break Sebastian Vettel’s stranglehold on the top step of the podium at Shanghai. Prior to that Jenson Button led home a McLaren one-two at the Far East circuit in 2010. Hamilton said he felt confident about returning to China: “ I’ll be heading into the race looking to win, no doubt,” he said. “It’s been an important circuit for both myself and the team in recent years and we’ve excelled on it.
“In 2011 we had a bad weekend in Malaysia and were chasing the Red Bulls but we pushed on every lap here andmanaged to take a great win that turned our fortunes around. It was an important result because it showed what a force we could be. I still don’t think the pecking order has settled down yet, so it’s important that we get as many points on the board in these early races as possible.” While Hamilton is confident of challenging in China, he also added that he felt more at ease in his racing following the tensions of 2011. A string of personal problems and on-track clashes left Hamilton fifth in the points, his worst tally to date in F1. He added that his main target for this year was consistency, not outright results. “Last year taught me the value of consistency – it’s not good chasing a great result if you can’t back it upwith another strong finish the following week.
“It’s important just to pick up solid points if awin isn’t on the cards, and I’ve done that in the last two races. So maybe I’m just playing myself in gently. In 2007 I didn’t win until the sixth round, but I was in the hunt for the title all year. It will definitely be an interesting weekend in China.”
Button’s chance China also presents Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button with a chance to bounce back to form following his nightmare race in Malaysia.
Following his dominant win in Australia, Button struggled to 14th place at Sepang following problems with the tyres and chassis balance. McLaren’s stiffer set-up meant that Button couldn’t get heat into the Pirelli rubber in wetter conditions, when his driving style failed to generate enough friction.
Button dropped to third in the points as a result and said that set-up and conditions will again play a large part in the outcome on Sunday. “Shanghai is a very good circuit with a technical first two sectors where there’s amix of corners and you need a good, responsive car to go well.
“If it rains it’s going to be another really unpredictable race as we’re all still learning about the cars and tyres in wet conditions. There will be the usual set-up compromises. You need a car with good downforce through the fast corners but without sacrificing too much top end speed along the straights. We saw teams address the balance in different ways over the first two races so it will interesting to see if things start to converge this weekend.” McLaren head Martin Whitmarsh added: “We’ve won three of the past four races in China and we’re keen to add to that tally this weekend. While it’s been a shame not to convert two poles into two wins the whole team is encouraged by the pace we’ve shown so far. We’re aware that our rivals won’t have stood still though and we’re taking nothing for granted. If the overall competitive order has been hard to read so far I have no doubt it will start to become clearer this weekend.”
Vettel pushing While McLaren appears to have the strongest overall package with its MP2-27, it has been helped by teething problems hitting its rivals.
Red Bull Racing has struggled to recoup enough rear downforce after exhaust blown-diffusers were banned while Ferrari’s F2012 suffers from a handling woe andMercedes’ W03 from excessive tyre wear. Vettel took second in Australia but retired in Malaysia following a clash with Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT. The frustrated double-title holder said: “The first two races weren’t perfect, but they weren’t awful. We proved that we can still run at the front. Wehave 18 more races and I have faith in the team andmyself.”
McLar en man wa nts victor ies
Both Red Bull and Fe rr ar i ha ve str ug gled fo r consistent speed