19 November 2013
United States Grand Prix: Hamilton delighted by improvement
In his own words, Lewis Hamilton has had a "shocking" run of GP races since Hungary in the summer, but a new chassis seems to have helped put the smile back on his face in Austin.
News that Mercedes had found serious problems with his existing W04 chassis was music to Lewis Hamilton's ears earlier this week, as it offered the prospect of a light at the end of the tunnel to a recent run of form that Hamilton himself had described as "shocking".
The discovery of serious and previously undetected cracks in the chassis Hamilton was using up to Abu Dhabi led to the team building up a new one for this weekend's United States Grand Prix, and the difference was immediate with Hamilton looking much more like his pre-summer break self in the car at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend.
"Really happy, really, really happy," he said after crossing the line in fourth place, just missing out on a podium position. "I got fourth and I went forwards - it's the first time I've gone forward since Hungary!
"I feel like I won the race!" he added. "The car was massively different this weekend. I'm pretty sure that the damage we had in the last race is really what made our race so bad. The car was a night and day difference and it was nice to have a better car."
Also helping was a strong start off the line by Hamilton, which enabled him to get past Mark Webber round the outside of turn 1, and although he was forced to not defend too hard when Mark Webber surged past him on lap 14 using DRS he was nonetheless able to make sure he stayed ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg for the balance of the race.
"It was a good feeling to get a good start," he said. "I then had to manage the tyres the way I needed to, the tyres didn't die at the end, and if I had lost out to Fernando that would have..." he trailed off, before adding: "I just didn't want to let the team down.
"When Fernando got past [Hulkenberg] I knew I had to step it up a notch - which I did. It's just good to have an answer to him. When you see them make that step, it's just good to have an answer to it. So really happy."
Crossing the line ahead of Alonso was important to Mercedes' hopes of clinching second place in the constructors championship ahead of Ferrari, and Hamilton confirmed this was the central aim of the team's efforts going into next weekend's season finale in Brazil.
"To be the second-best team over the whole season, leapfrogging McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus, would be huge for the guys back in the factory," he said. "It's not like the team is working harder this year than before, it's just that they weren't seeing the results they deserved before.
"Hopefully this will also help them in the development of the car for next year," he added.
But while he viewed second place for the team as an important target, he was dismissive of importance of the same runners-up spot in the drivers' championship, which Alonso was able to clinch with his fifth place finish in Austin this weekend.
"I'm looking forward to the winter but we still have a job to do [next weekend] and it will definitely be a good feeling if we finish second. It would be huge for the team. That's what I will be working towards."
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