China GP: Race notes - McLaren


Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai and heads to the seasonal finale in Brazil with a seven-point advantage over Felipe Massa, his sole challenger for the world title. Today's victory earned Lewis a memorable treble - pole position (his seventh of the year), fastest lap (1m36.325) and a 14.9s winning margin over Felipe.

Heikki Kovalainen was delayed by understeer during the opening stint due to the fitting of a set of mismatched tyres; but he led for three laps before being delayed by an entirely separate tyre issue that forced him to pit early on lap 35. Early indications from Bridgestone suggest this was caused by a puncture and not a tyre failure. Heikki was eventually forced to retire on lap 50 following a loss of hydraulic pressure.

With one round remaining, Lewis leads the drivers' championship with 94 points; Felipe lies second with 87; Heikki is seventh on 51. In the constructors' championship, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes remains second with 145 points; Ferrari leads with 156 points.

Lewis Hamilton: "Everything just went right this weekend: our car has been simply phenomenal, I made one of my best-ever starts and had perfect balance during the race. I owe so much of that to the guys in the team - both at the track and back home; they did an amazing job so a big thanks to them. I've got a seven-point lead in the world championship, but that doesn't allow me to take anything for granted. It might be another step towards my dream but we've still got to stay calm and keep our heads. I just hope we can pull through."

Heikki Kovalainen: "I made a good start, got past Fernando and almost got alongside Felipe. Fernando managed to repass me before Turn 14 and I settled down in fifth. I had a lot of understeer during my first stint and tried to improve things during the first stop by raising the front wing angle. Later, I was still running in the points when I had a puncture early on in the lap - it cost me a lot of time driving slowly back to the pits and I knew it would be an uphill struggle for the rest of the race. In the closing stages, I had a problem with the pneumatic system so the team called me in as a precautionary measure. We still have a chance to win the constructors' championship in Brazil, so I'll definitely be going for it in Sao Paulo."

Ron Dennis: "No-one will be surprised to hear me describe today's Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team performance as a tremendous one, because that's exactly what it was. In difficult circumstances we never allowed our focus to waver, and we paced ourselves carefully throughout. Lewis did a truly fabulous job, as did our entire team. Our race strategy was extremely solid too, but the key message from China that we take forward to Brazil is that we qualified extremely well despite the fact that our cars were fuelled longer than those of our principal opposition, which clearly demonstrates the inherent pace of our car. Heikki's first stint was compromised by the fitting of a set of mismatched tyres, which caused his car to understeer. After his first stop, a punctured tyre then forced an unscheduled pitstop before an air pressure problem with his engine caused us to retire him in order to avoid risking an engine failure."

Norbert Haug: "Great - a more convincing win is hardly possible. What an excellent victory for Lewis and the team, and what a well deserved one. Pole, win and fastest lap, Lewis demonstrated his skills and was clearly the man of the race and the whole weekend. He made a perfect start and controlled the field, never putting a foot wrong and the team executed a perfect strategy. I am sorry for Heikki, he first had a puncture, which cost him a lap, and later we had to call him in as a precautionary measure as the air consumption in his engine was too high. We are now looking forward to an exciting finale in Brazil and everybody in the team is working hard to score enough points to win the world championship."

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    Published: 19/10/2008
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