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Chinese Grand Prix preview - Hamilton prepares for title test 16 Oct 2008

Lewis Hamilton (GBR), McLaren, McLaren Mercedes MP4-23, Italian Grand Prix 2008, Monza, Saturday, 13 September 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Main grandstand.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 16 October 2008 Felipe Massa (BRA), Ferrari, Ferrari F2008, Japanese Grand Prix 2008, Fuji Speedway, Sunday, 12 October 2008. © Martin Trenkler / Reporter Images Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 16 October 2008 Mechanics push the car of Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA108 down the pitlane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Chinese Grand Prix, Preparations, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, Thursday, 16 October 2008

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton goes into the most important race of his life this weekend focused and determined to put the setback in Japan last week firmly behind him. With a five-point lead over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in the world championship, he could theoretically clinch the title in Shanghai.

On Wednesday he made two things clear: he isn’t stressing about either last year’s race here, or last week’s in Fuji.

"Sometimes I’ve been on YouTube and seen a video clip or a picture of me in the gravel last year and thought, ‘Damn! That shouldn’t have happened’. But it was a learning mistake. I can still move forwards from it; things like that happen for a reason and it taught me a lot. Last year, the last couple of races taught me a lot about my personality and my life. And I’m stronger for it."

And Fuji?

“I’m not going to change my driving style. I made a small mistake in Fuji by arriving at the first corner and asking too much of the brakes, and I won’t make that mistake again this weekend. But I am still winning to win both of the last races, as safely as I can.”

The weather for Shanghai currently looks mixed, and Hamilton remains adamant that he isn’t worried either way. "I’ve said before that I don’t mind racing in the wet or the dry. Of course, it’s safer in the dry and I guess those are the conditions that racing drivers prefer. But having said that, I would just prefer it if the weather wasn’t too changeable during the weekend; when the track starts drying out, or it starts raining during the race is when things become a real lottery. At this stage in the season you need things to be as reliable as possible for you."

But he says that he will most definitely make an earlier pit stop if his tyres get as worn as they were in Shanghai last year. “I have the experience to do that, for sure. If I feel the car behaving the way it did then, I’m coming in straight away.”

If Massa fails to finish, Hamilton needs to score only six points for third place to clinch the title in his second season. If Hamilton were to finish fourth and leave with a 10 point lead, a win for Massa and a non-finish for Lewis in Brazil would tip the title in the Brazilian’s favour; they would be equal on points but Massa would have six wins to four.

"As far as the Japanese Grand Prix was concerned, it’s always important to score more points than our closest rivals at this point in the championship, with just two races to go, so we can be pleased that we managed to do that,” explained the Brazilian.

"It was definitely not the race we had expected to have, but in the end, it was a reasonable result, with the team moving back into the lead in the constructors' championship and for me, reducing my gap to Lewis in the drivers' from seven to five. But there are still those five points, so we need to recover even more, but I think, the Japanese result was better than nothing.

“Last year, in Shanghai, I finished third in a race that began in the wet. The track itself is quite interesting and everything there is on a very big scale, although the journey to and from the circuit can be a bit painful at times with the heavy traffic. I had quite a good run last year and hope to do even better this time. I like the circuit and I think it will suit the F2008, so of course we will be aiming to get a one-two finish."

Title outsider Robert Kubica is taking things quietly, with none of the expectation heaped upon him that Hamilton and Massa have. “I haven't had much luck at this circuit so far,” says the BMW Sauber driver. “I hope that changes this time and I can pick up some important points for the world championship."

The Shanghai International Circuit measures 5.451 kilometres and is shaped like the Chinese character 'shang,' meaning 'high' or 'above'. It comprises seven left and seven right turns and features numerous overtaking opportunities, such as Turn One or the corner at the end of the back straight where the cars brake from more than 320 km/h on the section 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.