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The Chinese Grand Prix Preview 04 Oct 2007

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren signs an autograph in the paddock.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 4 October 2007 Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 4 October 2007 Pit complex and main grandstand.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 4 October 2007 Red Bull Racing RB3 front wings.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 4 October 2007 (L to R): Joseph Lieberer (SUI) BMW Sauber Physio with Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd16, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 4 October 2007

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton could be crowned world champion this weekend, thus becoming the first rookie ever to achieve that feat, if the cards fall right for him in Shanghai.

The 22 year-old Englishman has a 12-point advantage over team mate Fernando Alonso, and 17 over Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The latter duo are now the only men who can frustrate his ambition. Their respective scores are 107, 95 and 90.

Hamilton’s victory in Japan last weekend saw him become the first driver in Formula One history to reach the 100 point mark in only 15 races. Meanwhile, in his quest to retain his crown, Alonso will have a new MP4-22 chassis to replace the one he damaged severely at Fuji.

So long as Hamilton finishes ahead of Alonso he can secure the title in China, provided they finish in the points and Raikkonen does not win. The greatest pressure is thus on the Finn, but Hamilton refuses to think of the title yet and said: “We are going into these races with a really tight drivers’ battle with only 12 points between me and Fernando. Anything is still possible but I am feeling confident and very determined and I hope we will have another couple of exciting races.

“There has been a lot of talk over the last couple of days about the championship, but I just push that to the back of my mind. I am only focused on the next two races and doing the best I can in China and Brazil with the team. The last two races of this season are at tracks that I have not ever been to before. I don’t see that as a problem, as this has been the case on four occasions already this season, at Melbourne, Montreal, Indy and Fuji and I was on the podium at all these races.

“From what I understand of the Shanghai circuit, it is very vast in comparison with Interlagos, so we will probably have two quite different races. Everything is too tight for me to predict what will happen, but the races in China always seem to be exciting and I feel well prepared to take on the challenge.”

Alonso said: “My retirement in Japan has not made it easy for me in the championship, but there are still 20 points to be won and I am going to fight hard for each one of them. There is always a lot of talk of pressure and distractions at this time of the year, all I think about is racing and winning at Shanghai and Interlagos. We are all focused on this aim and giving the maximum over the next few weeks.

“I like to race at the Shanghai circuit, it is new but it has character, although I have mixed memories from the track. Last year was a frustrating race, whereas in 2005 I won. I hope to repeat this result this weekend! The track is very wide and has been designed to allow overtaking. Slipstreaming along the main back straight and then passing into the first corner is one of the main chances. You have to make sure you have as much momentum as possible when you exit Turn 13, so mechanical grip is as important as making sure we have a competitive top speed.”

Raikkonen said: “We know that we have a good car and that our package is competitive. I will be doing everything I can this weekend to win the race, and keep myself in the hunt for the championship going into the final race, at Interlagos.”

Designed by Hermann Tilke, the Shanghai International Circuit inaugurated the Chinese Grand Prix in 2004. The 5.451 kilometre track is shaped like the Chinese character ‘shang’ which means ‘high’ or ‘above’. It comprises seven left- and seven right-hand turns and features numerous overtaking opportunities.

Turn One has several possible apexes, then there is the corner at the end of the back straight, where the cars hit more than 320 km/h for more than a kilometre between Turns 13 and 14. It is a low to medium-downforce track, and this weekend Bridgestone will be supplying their hard and medium compound tyres.