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By Alan Davies, Formula One correspondent
Saturday, April 14, 2012
FORMULA 1 racer Lewis Hamilton hasn’t given up hope of achieving a podium finish in Sunday’s 2012 Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
* Race distance: 56 Laps (189.568 miles/305.066km)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/07:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 3.387 miles/5.451km
* 2011 winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
* Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari 2004)
The 27-year-old F1 driver from Hertfordshire was second fastest in today’s (Saturday’s) qualifying session in China.
However, a five-place grid penalty owing to an unscheduled gearbox change means the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star will start Sunday’s third round of the FIA F1 World Drivers’ Championship from seventh on the grid.
Mercedes AMG pair Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher will line-up on the front row at the Shanghai International Circuit.
Hamilton’s McLaren colleague Jenson Button was sixth in qualifying, but will start one place further up the grid due to Lewis’ penalty.
Although admitting there’s plenty of work to be done, Stevenage-born Hamilton hasn’t given up hope of securing a healthy number of points at a track where he took the chequered flag in both 2008 and last year.
He says he’s set up his McLaren MP4-27 for the grand prix.
Lewis said: “Looking at the race, we’ve got a good car but I’m going to have to work my way up through the field tomorrow [Sunday]. But as long as I move forward in the race, I’ll be happy.
“I’ve set my car up to be at its strongest in the race.
* Wins 3 (2008, 2010, 2011)
* Poles 2 (2007, 2008)
* Fastest laps 3 (2005, 2008, 2010)
“So, although Jenson [Button] and I are a little bit further back than we’d like, and we’ve got a bit of work to do, we can still make it.
“There’s a good group of drivers ahead of us on the grid, but we’re right with them in terms of race pace.
“This is a track where you can overtake, and we’ve got DRS too – so I’m massively excited about tomorrow.”
Hamilton also congratulated former karting colleague Rosberg on claiming his first pole position.
"I’ve set my car up to be at its strongest in the race."
“Very big congratulations to Nico [Rosberg] today,” said Hamilton.
“We first met back in 1997 and were team-mates in 2000. We’ve been good friends ever since.
“When we were team-mates, we always dreamed of qualifying first and second together in Formula 1 – and it’s crazy that we did that today.”
Button also thinks McLaren’s race pace is “very good”. He said: “Our aim will be to go for victory.
“That won’t be easy, but we ought to be as quick or quicker than most of the cars in front of us in the race.
“The unusual one is Kamui [Kobayashi], who seems to have very good long-run pace.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects his drivers to still challenge for serious points, despite qualifying on the third and fourth rows respectively.
He said: “It was a peculiar qualifying session, in which the to-ing and fro-ing of grip levels was abnormally unpredictable.
“During Q3, the air and track temperatures cooled rapidly as the sky overhead became suddenly overcast, and the circuit became appreciably slower as a result.
“Nico, who had already cut a very good lap early in the session, was therefore unassailable.
“Jenson, who went out later, found that the track surface had become much less grippy than it had been beforehand, and the inevitable result was a slower-than-expected lap time from him.
“But that wasn’t his fault; pretty much everyone who was on track at the end of Q3 either recorded a slower lap-time than they’d hoped for, or indeed aborted it, as Lewis did.
“Tomorrow, though, we’re confident that we’ll have two competitive race cars, and, from fifth and seventh on the grid respectively, Jenson and Lewis will be approaching the race with their customary controlled combativeness.”
Bookies William Hill make Rosberg and Schumacher 3/1 and 7/2 respectively to win the race. Hamilton is joint third favourite at 9/2, the same price as Button.
The 2012 Grand Prix of China starts at 8am BST on Sunday.