Indian Grand Prix 2011: Hamilton keen to continue run

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton wants to end 2011 on a high as the season begins to draw to a close

By Gareth Llewellyn
lewis hamilton
Hamilton finished second at the Korean Grand Prix Photo: Courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

lewis hamilton

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is on the hunt for more success as Formula 1 heads to the Buddh International Circuit for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, near New Delhi.

The 2008 world champion, who produced a stunning drive to finish second last time out in Korea for his first podium finish since winning the German Grand Prix in July, believes McLaren should have a competitive car for the first outing at the 3.19 mile circuit.

“It’s too early to say, but I think we’re set to be competitive at all of the final three races,” Hamilton said.

“We were quick at Singapore, Japan and Korea, and I think the pattern at the front has sort of settled down now as we reach the end of the season. I think we have a car that can be quick anywhere, so I’d like to think we’d be in the hunt again next weekend.”

Like many F1 teams, McLaren have already been to India to take part in organised promotion days – and Hamilton believes that the Indian public are excited and ready to embrace the frenetic circus that is the pinnacle of motor sport.

“We’ve done a few Vodafone promotional days there,” he added. “The last time was just crazy: just after Singapore, we did a demo run in Bangalore and were expecting 5,000 people to turn up. On the day, there were around 40,000 fans, it was just incredible.

“You can’t believe how many people are aware of Formula 1 and how many are looking forward to the race next week. There’s already a great deal of knowledge about the sport – I think it’s going to be a big deal.

Hamilton believes the country is already warming to the sport, which now has an Indian team in Force India, and two drivers in HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan, and Team Lotus reserve driver Karun Chandhok.

“I really think the people of India are going to take Formula 1 to their hearts. The reception we’ve had in the last few years has been greater than I could ever have predicted and I think the whole country is ready for something new and something exciting.

“I really hope India will get turned on to Formula 1 in a big way – it would be amazing to have an entire continent supporting you, and I really hope we can put on a fantastic race!”

Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button is also looking forward to the race, and arrives in India off the back of five consecutive podium finishes, and a fourth-place finish in Korea, bettered only by world champion Sebastian Vettel.

“I always look forward to the next grand prix,” Button said. “The word is that people in India are really excited about Formula 1 and the event – it’s important for the sport that we make a good first impression and I really hope we have a fantastic race. Our car’s been pretty competitive recently and we’d like to win more races before the end of the season.”

Having never driven the circuit before, Button is ready for the “strange experience” of constantly assessing the track’s behaviour as the weekend unfolds.

“I can’t really say properly until I’ve driven it. But the track itself has quite a nice mix of corners – the start of the lap is pretty stop-start, there are a couple of long straights mixed with tight hairpins, but it’s the end of the lap that’s more interesting: there are some pretty high-speed changes of direction through the esses and some gradient change.

“One of the things that looks really interesting is the double-apex banked corner at the back of the circuit – that’s pretty unusual. It’s sort of a mix between Turn 13 at China and Korea’s Turn 11.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh expects his drivers to excel on the new circuit as his team prepare to switch their attentions to development of their 2012 challenger.

“While we’re winding down the development of the 26 and ramping up development of MP4-27, we still have a few more opportunities to track-test components and developments that can be carried over to next year,” Whitmarsh said.

“And we take plenty of positives away from the last two races: I think Jenson’s win in Japan and Lewis’s drive in Korea were two of the best performances of their respective careers.

“Both drivers are motivated to win and want to lead the team through these final few races and into the winter. There’s a lot of positive energy back at MTC, and you’re seeing that at the racetrack, too.”

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