• ‘We still have seven races. It’s not mathematically over’
• McLaren still developing car to catch the Red Bulls
Lewis Hamilton said he and McLaren are still fighting for the championship ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza. The driver says that, despite Sebastian Vettel’s overwhelming lead, he and his team can improve but also acknowledged that he will have to perform better if he is to finish ahead of his team-mate Jenson Button at the end of the season.
Despite trailing Vettel by 113 points, with the German requiring only 83 more to secure the championship, Hamilton remained optimistic. “I know what I can do,” he said. “If things are right and I’m not crashing out, then I know I can do a solid job. Get some good results. We still have seven races. It’s not mathematically over and I can still find inspiration to tap into.”
His team are still developing this year’s car and Hamilton was determined that he, too, would continue moving forwards during the last part of the season. “I have got to find my way, learn from any mistakes and try to smooth out the creases through these last seven races,” he said.
“What I want to work on is doing it even when everything is not perfect. I still want to get a par. Just a par. When I’m winning it’s a birdie or an eagle. But when things aren’t at their best I want a par,” he said, adding that his golf is: “Pretty good. Playing off 17.”
The greens-in-regulation of podium places means consistency is paramount for Hamilton, who went out of the Belgian GP after turning in on Kamui Kobayashi, unaware the Japanese driver had remained in his slipstream through the Kemmel straight. It is a goal he remains focused on in Italy: “I have always said I can improve. We have had a few more bad days in the office than we have had good days this year. Of course I am not happy about it but there is no point in dwelling on it. You can only move forward.”
The first step would be in the battle with Button, who leads him by three points. Hamilton has never finished a season behind a team-mate and is determined not to lose his record. “Everyone compares you to your team-mate,” he said. “Jenson is doing a great job this year but the plan is to finish ahead of him. If I don’t, then he has done a better job than me and it means I need to improve for next year.”
Hamilton, as with all the teams, will be running an ultra-low downforce package here at Monza, because of the circuit’s high speed characteristics – over 80% of a lap is run at full throttle – but setting up this aero configuration will be essential – fast laps are secured by riding the kerbs.
It will also be the first race of the season to feature two DRS zones, with two separate detection points, the first zone is on the start-finish straight and the second from Lesmo 2 to Ascari. With the gap between the zones unlikely to offer drivers the chance to pull out more than the one second needed to prevent activation, strategic use of the system may play a major part in Sunday’s race.
This unique high-speed, low downforce nature means the teams have not brought major upgrade packages here to Monza but while most insist development on this year’s cars is continuing, many of the major players are looking towards next year.
The Mercedes team principal, Ross Brawn, admitted that for his team work was already fully under way. His factory, he said, was concentrating “in terms of aero work etc, almost exclusively” on the new car and that the “focus is firmly on 2012 now and I think that would be the case for the majority of the teams”.