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'Percentage game' anathema to Hamilton, say McLaren

McLaren-Mercedes managing director Jonathan Neale defends 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton's two consecutive accident-induced DNFs in Italy and Singapore by acknowledging that 'it's not in his instinct to play a percentage game'
Whilst the majority of the five F1 2010 title protagonists have been at pains to stress the importance of consistency and regular podium finishes over the remaining four races of what has been a nail-biting campaign, McLaren-Mercedes managing director Jonathan Neale has conceded that 'it's not in Lewis Hamilton's instinct to play a percentage game'.

Hamilton is the only one of the crown-chasing quintet to have registered a blank scoresheet from the last two outings in Italy and Singapore, following run-ins with Felipe Massa at Monza and Mark Webber at Marina Bay – on both occasions as he endeavoured to snatch third place. Had he succeeded in his efforts, the 2008 F1 World Champion would have tallied 30 points – as it was, he came away with zero.

By stark contrast, principal adversaries Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button and Webber have notched up respectively 50, 30, 30 and 23 points over the same period – leaving Hamilton under pressure heading to the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend not to suffer a third consecutive DNF, in the knowledge that it could just kill off his bid for glory.

Albeit brushing off suggestions that the front wing of McLaren's MP4-25 is less sturdy than those of its chief rivals in the light of the fact that whilst Hamilton was forced out of the reckoning in Italy and Singapore, Massa and Webber were not – insisting that 'there's nothing fragile about our car' – Neale does confess that the 25-year-old's natural inclination is, as he is so fond of saying himself, to 'race his heart out'.

“Lewis is a force of nature, and given half an opportunity he is going to race hard,” the Englishman told a pre-Suzuka Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In Session, with Hamilton having maintained last week that he has no intention of moderating his famously aggressive on-track style following his two costly contretemps. “I think that's what makes him the man he is and why he is such a great racing driver. It's why he is and will be successful.

“If you see him in the rear-view mirror, you know he is going to come and have a go. It's not in Lewis' instinct to play a percentage game, but he is a learning animal and he will take all these things [on-board] and weigh up the risk.”

by Russell Atkins

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