Lew Ham: Still a title chance, but car only third quickest

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Lewis Hamilton is — to nod toward the Tuesday elections here in America — cautiously optimistic about his title chances, even though he admits the McLaren is only the third quickest car on the gird.

His quotes come from his personal website:

Korean Grand Prix debrief
Thursday, 28 October 2010
How bad were the conditions during the early part of the race when the race was at its wettest?

“During the first start behind the Safety Car, it was pretty tricky – mainly because visibility was so limited. There didn’t seem to be too much rain, but there was a lot of water in the air, and that meant that the spray was pretty intense. You couldn’t see much in front of you, so it was a good move to red-flag the event.

“But when we restarted again behind the Safety Car, I didn’t think conditions were too bad. We’ve had some pretty full-on wet races over the last couple of years – Fuji 2007, Silverstone ’08 – and I think the conditions in Korea were definitely comparable to those. That’s why I wanted to go racing.

“Actually, the strangest conditions were at the very end of the race, when it started to get darker, which was another challenge – and something that you’re not used to as a Formula 1 driver. I actually think the race organisers got it just right: yes, the light was fading towards the very end of the race, but I think it would have been a controversial decision to stop the race before full-distance, as it could have potentially favoured one team or driver over another. And, as we saw, the light levels dropped really sharply once we’d got out of the cars, so I think we got it just right.”

You ran wide at the first corner after the restart, losing a place to Fernando Alonso – if you’d kept the position, do you think you’d have been able to win the race?

“I think it would have been extremely difficult. For the whole race, I was struggling with grip, and having trouble getting the car slowed down without locking the fronts. And that’s why I ran wide at the exit of Turn One – just because it was so difficult to get the car slowed for the corner. That’s where Fernando passed me, but I really think it would only have been a matter of time before he’d been able to get through anyway.

“We had pretty decent pace through sectors one and two, but the car wasn’t fast enough through the final sector, where I was losing a couple of tenths, so I think I’d have been a sitting duck along the pits straight going into the first corner. So I don’t think it would have changed the overall result.

“Also, in the closing laps, my tyres started falling away really sharply and my laptimes just plummeted, it was so hard to keep the car on the track. So I’m pleased with those 18 points for P2 – I could have done with seven more points for the win, but I’m happy with what I got.”

As you say, taking home those 18 points means that you’re now up to third in the drivers’ championship, 21 points behind the leader. Are you still in the title fight?

“Absolutely. It’s going to be tough – we saw again in Korea that we’ve probably only got the third-fastest car, so we’re probably not the favourites – but that’s okay.

“We’re bringing new parts to the car all the time, and I know we’ll have some more upgrades in Brazil – whether that will be enough, we need to wait and see. But I’m going to enjoy pushing – I’ve had some good races in Brazil, it’s a place where you can really make a charge work, so I go there feeling very optimistic and hopeful of another good showing.

“At this stage, the aim has to be to go to Abu Dhabi with a mathematical possibility of winning the title. As we’ve seen so many times before, anything can happen at the final race, so Brazil will be all about prolonging the challenge and then maximizing everything for Abu Dhabi.

“Of course, it would be nice to take a win at Interlagos, but we’re taking it all one step at a time at the moment.”

There’s definitely no arguing with him that anything seems possible this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if neither Lewis nor Fernando Alonso headed to Abu Dhabi as the drivers’ leader.

Keeping in mind these comments are about as packaged as any could be, do you see anything to pick out as we start prepping for Brazil? A studied calm? I think we all agree McLaren can pull the upgrades out when the need arises. And what do you make of his comments that Alonso eventually would have gotten past him in Korea?

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