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2012-10-08 12:26

FIVE RACES TO GO FOR 2012: Lewis Hamilton has only five races left to push for the 2012 F1 title. Perhaps the mysterious "thud" will keep all mechanical woes at bay?

SUZUKA, Japan - Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton said a mysterious mid-race "thud" fixed his steering problems at the Japanese GP and kept his title hopes alive.

Hamilton, who will leave McLaren for Mercedes in 2013, said his car seemed to be under-steering badly before "a thud on the rear" solved the problem and allowed him to put in a spell of competitive laps.

MIRACLE FIX

Hamilton finished fifth and, with five races to go, is fourth in the standings but 44 points behind championship leader Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton said: "I still got some points but a very, very unusual thing happened which I had never ever experienced. The car was under-steering like it was in qualifying, which it shouldn't have been doing, and then again it was under-steering on my formation lap. So I thought 'It's going to be tough today'.

"I struggled for the first 20-odd laps. I don't know if it was before the first stop or after but through turn 14 I felt this thud on the rear and all of a sudden the car starting turning fantastically. So I was able to push and overtake guys, but it was bit late."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won the race and is second in the title race, just four points behind Alonso who retired after an unlucky first-lap puncture.

Hamilton also insisted he backed off when overtaken early in the race by Sauber's Sergio Perez, his incoming replacement at McLaren, knowing the would try something "crazy".

Perez later tried to pass Hamilton a second time in the same place, but made a mistake and spun off and out.

Hamilton said: "I saw him coming and I have a championship to fight for and he doesn't so... I thought that he was going to do a crazy manoeuvre, which he did.

"Then when he was behind me again I saw it coming again so I moved a little to the inside, thinking that he was going to go up the inside and he just flew down the outside of me. So, very interesting."

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