Crash.Net F1 News
Hamilton 'driving better than ever'
22 October 2012
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh may have been criticised for his enthusiastic response to Lewis Hamilton's tenth place in the Korean Grand Prix, but the driver himself believes that recent results do not pay full respect to his performances on track.
Hamilton concedes that his hopes of adding a second world championship with title with McLaren effectively ended in Japan, and being hampered by a suspension problem, even before becoming overly attached to a strip of artificial turf, in Korea only served to underline that belief, but the Briton says that he is heading to this weekend's Indian Grand Prix in the hope of returning the MP4-27 to the front of the field to disrupt the title battle brewing up between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
Although he qualified fifth and finished seventh at the Buddh International Circuit when India made its F1 debut last season, Hamilton is confident that he has a better car this time around - although successive suspension woes may not back him up - and will be able to challenge for a fourth win of the 2012 season before he heads to Mercedes.
“I didn't have a particularly tidy weekend in India last year, but I feel I've been driving better than ever recently – even if the results haven't quite shown it – so I'm headed there determined for another good result," the 27-year old commented, "I think we'll have a car that's a match for the circuit and I can't wait to get out there and start practicing on Friday."
After a long gestation period, India finally joined the calendar in 2011, and the Buddh International layout, despite having just one racing line between the dust, proved an instant hit with the drivers.
“The circuit is something of a revelation," Hamilton confirmed, "Most modern tracks have a very similar feel - you find that the same driving style and rhythm suits them all. But the Buddh International Circuit is different, because it's got an incredible flow. Basically, from turn four, a wide-apex right-hander that sweeps downhill, the track is just a series of fast, rolling curves which really allow you to put the car absolutely on the limit. That gives it more in common with a great track like Spa than it does with any number of the more modern places we visit."
As in Korea two weeks ago, car set-up at Buddh International will be a delicate balance between straight-line speed and cornering grip. There was a huge amount of evolution in the track surface over the course of last year's race weekend and, given that the asphalt hasn't been used much in the past twelve months, McLaren's engineers expect similar improvements this year.
Both McLaren drivers finished in points-scoring positions in India last year, with Jenson Button besting Hamilton to come home second overall, and the team is confident that it can bounce back from recent poor returns.
“Our two weekends in Japan and Korea weren't particularly prosperous but, while fortune certainly didn't smile on us during those two races, it's proof - if it were needed - that no team or driver is immune from tides of good or bad luck," team principal Whitmarsh pointed out, “Of course, luck flows both way, and I'm positive that, after two disappointing races, this next double-header [which pairs India with Abu Dhabi] will be a more profitable affair for Jenson, Lewis and the whole team.”
Having not finished the opening lap in Korea, Button is particularly keen to repeat last year's showing in India.
“Through no fault of my own, my weekend in Korea was a wasted opportunity – but it's already far behind me, and I'm really looking forward to these next two back-to-back races," he noted, “The Indian Grand Prix went well for me last year – I had an absolutely straightforward drive, running second from start to finish - and it's a circuit I like, so I think we can have a good weekend there.
"The circuit has a good feel to it, and you can tell it's quite different from the normal places we visit. There are a couple of unusual factors - firstly, the approaches to turns three and four are incredibly wide, almost like a motorway, in order to stimulate different lines into the corner and encourage overtaking. Secondly, the combination of turns ten and eleven is also pretty special. It's a huge, bowl-shaped double-apex right-hander, a bit like Spoon at Suzuka.
It's unusual for a new circuit to have such fast corners, and it's really enjoyable when you get the car hooked up through there – the lateral g feels great, and I'm already looking forward to it.”