Wrong turn for Lewis in Japan

2012-10-06 20:17

SUZUKA, Japan - Lewis Hamilton realised he’d made a wrong decision on Saturday as McLaren's run of four pole positions in a row came to an end during qualifying for the 2012 Japanese F1 GP.

The 2008 Formula One World champion, whose headline-grabbing move to Mercedes in 2013 was announced last week, was referring to his choice of qualifying set-up on a difficult afternoon for his McLaren team.


"I chose a direction but it's very difficult," he said after a session that ended with Hamilton ninth and Red Bull's double World champion Sebastian Vettel on pole. Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso qualified sixth.

"Every time you do a run you try to fine-tune the set-up and sometimes you just go the wrong way,” Hamilton said. “The car was feeling good and was quick in FP2 and FP3 (the second and third practice sessions) but I got it wrong in qualifying."

McLaren was chasing their best qualifying run since 1999 but hopes of another pole depended on Hamilton since team mate Jenson Button had a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change two weeks earlier in Singapore.

In the end, even with the drop, Button will still start ahead of Hamilton in eighth after qualifying third fastest.

"As soon as I did my first lap I knew it was wrong. I did everything I could with my adjustments on the steering, I had the front wing maxed out but it was not enough to overcome the issue," said Hamilton.

"We had a long run on Friday with this set-up and it was not too bad. I am hoping perhaps with a wind direction change tomorrow and the downforce level I have then perhaps it will work a little bit better."


Hamilton's title hopes have faded with the European summer and the 27-year-old is now 52 points behind Alonso with six races remaining and a maximum 150 points to be won.

Button, winner at Suzuka in 2011 despite Vettel starting on pole, is 75 points off the leader. The older Briton, world champion with Brawn GP in 2009, said in contrast that his car had felt surprisingly good.

"I’ve been all over the place with set-up and to find something that suits the car around here I am very happy about," he told reporters. “I was happy with the balance through qualifying, but the race is another thing. I haven't done many laps on high fuel but with the way the car felt in qualifying I am confident we can adjust the set-up for and it should work well."