OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
Fuji, Japan, Oct 12, 2008
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton finished the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji in 12th place; he was pushed into a spin by title contender Felipe Massa (Ferrari) on lap two and dropped to the back of the field. A subsequent drive-through penalty – for a first-corner incident – left him unable to challenge for a points finish. Heikki Kovalainen retired from third place due to an engine failure on lap 17. At the top of the drivers’ championship, today’s result does little to change the overall standings: Lewis still leads with 84 points, five ahead of Felipe who finished seventh to collect two points. Heikki is sixth with 51 points. The race (67 laps/305.416km) was won by Fernando Alonso (Renault). After 16 out of 18 Grands Prix, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes lies second in the constructors’ championship with 135 points; Ferrari leads with 142 points.
The start: For the sixth time this year, Lewis started from pole position whilst Heikki had qualified third fastest. During the opening lap, Lewis lost five positions and dropped to sixth place. Heikki was third.
The race, lap 2: Lewis attacked Massa before the chicane and overtook; however, Massa cut short and hit Lewis, he spun and had to let the entire field go by. Lewis pitted immediately (8.2sec) and dropped to the end of the field.
Lap 17: Heikki retired from third place due to an engine failure. Lewis received a drive-through penalty; he was alleged of forcing another car off the track at the first corner after the start. Massa received a drive-through because of the incident with Lewis.
Lap 20: Lewis was 15th, 13.5sec behind Massa who was 14th.
Lap 30: Lewis was 14th now and his gap behind Massa was 7.2sec.
Lap 34: Lewis improved to 13th place; Massa was 12th.
Lap 40: Lewis came in for a second pit stop (8.4sec), he resumed in 13th place.
Lap 54: Lewis was 12th.
Finish (67 laps): Lewis finished 12th.
“Obviously, I’m not happy after a result like today’s – but I’m already getting over it and tomorrow will be another day. Disappointingly, I didn’t make a great start, but I slipstreamed Kimi and went up the inside. I braked a bit late – but so did everybody. A lot of cars went wide at Turn One – and I just went a bit wider than everyone else. But you can’t undo the penalty or change today’s result. On lap two, Felipe went wide and I went up the inside, giving him room, but he tapped me quite hard into a spin.
“There are positives to take from today; I’ve only lost two points to Felipe in the drivers’ championship, so it’s definitely not over. Now I’ll forget today ever happened and move forward; we’ve got two more races to go and my target is still to win both of them.”
“Today started with so much promise and ended so disappointingly. I made a good start and, although I ran wide at the first corner, I still managed to slot in behind Robert and Fernando. I was feeling pretty confident about catching them both because the car was feeling just fantastic and then, all of a sudden, the engine stopped. That was a real pity because our reliability has been fantastic all season. Nevertheless, my pace today was good and I head to China feeling positive that we can once again show the same sort of pace we had this weekend.”
“Well, today was a very challenging day. We were a bit surprised that Lewis was given a penalty in respect of the first-corner incident, simply because we’ve all seen similar first-corner incidents that triggered no such penalty. Drivers miss braking points, they run wide; these things happen. As for Heikki, he was in a very strong position, fuelled significantly longer than the cars around him, when he suffered an extremely rare engine failure. All in all, then, as far as the championship is concerned, I guess things could have been worse; but there’s no getting away from the fact that it was a disappointing weekend. However, Lewis is still five points clear in the drivers’ championship, with two races to go, and I know that our whole team will dig deep from here on in.”
“A chaotic start and one lap later Felipe ruined Lewis’s race when he first ran wide and then cut the chicane short and pushed Lewis into a spin. The next grand prix will be held already next weekend and neither Felipe nor Ferrari benefited too much from today’s result. Despite Felipe’s action, Lewis still leads the drivers’ championship. We will investigate the engine failure on Heikki’s car tonight and tomorrow in Brixworth. Unfortunately this failure happened today when Heikki had a chance of winning; he was third, had the speed and was on the superior strategy. I am sorry for him and the team; it’s bad that things like this happen even if you previously performed reliably for two years. But we will work hard to make sure that such a failure will not happen again.”
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