After claiming victory in the Canadian Grand Prix last weekend, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton senses that this could be the most critical moment of the season for him in terms of his bid for the world championship.
“We may have won in Canada, but there’s an enormous amount of pressure to keep racking up good results at every Grand Prix,” he said. “The intensity of this year’s championship means there’s so little breathing space.”
“You’re only as good as your last result in F1,” agreed his team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. “It’s certainly feasible that this year’s title could be won by a driver who scores only two or three Grand Prix wins,” he said.
Hamilton wants Valencia to deliver that key second GP victory – not least because of how well that would set him up going into his home event.
“I’ll be heading to Valencia feeling super-motivated to get another strong result and maintain my momentum before we head into Silverstone and the Santander British Grand Prix,” he said. “I think that consistency, rather than individual strong results, will be the key to winning this world championship, so we need to back it up in Valencia with another strong result.”
“In previous years there was an emphasis on the ‘big’ results,” contributed Whitmarsh. “This year it seems that minor points placings could provide a decisive edge in the title battle.”
Hamilton finished just off the podium at Valencia in 2011, but finished second to Sebastian Vettel the year before. What does he think are the keys to success on this tough street circuit?
“The circuit is quite tough. It’s a very technical track, with lots of slow- to medium-speed corners that require good traction and set-up as well as lots of precision,” he explained. “Towards the end of the lap, the track gathers speed and opens up, the sweepers leading to the pits are actually incredibly fast, and they’re all about correct placement of the car to ensure you’re well placed for the following corner. That’s probably the most satisfying part of the lap.”
Whitmarsh agreed that Valencia had “traditionally been an extremely tough event,” adding: “We’ll once again be pushing hard on both our operational and technical fronts to ensure we stay at the front. As always, we aim to bring at least an additional one-tenth laptime benefit to each race, and we’re pushing hard to ensure we can over-deliver on that on as regular a basis as possible.
“The city itself is an exciting edgy blend of the classical and the ultra-contemporary,” added Whitmarsh. “As such, a perfect locale for one of F1’s newest races.”
After his success in Montreal, Hamilton now leads the drivers’ championship – but insists that this means little at such an early point of the 2012 season.
“While it’s always pleasing to be leading the championship, I’m only two points ahead of Fernando, which is nothing,” he said. “Particularly when there are a handful of really strong drivers all separated by a couple of points. There’s still everything to play for.
“My win in Montreal was obviously an extremely satisfying moment for me – but, actually it does very little to alter things in the world championship,” he added