Hamilton admits title chase now a 'tough one' after 'bad weekend'

Former champion 'happy to finish' after suffering broken gearbox and ear infection / Button again criticises tyre strategy

Can McLaren's troubled situation be rescued in time for Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to stay in the world championship title fight?

That was the million-dollar question people were asking after the Japanese Grand Prix yesterday, with the McLaren pair now trailing Mark Webber (220), Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel (206 each) with 192 and 189 points respectively.

"I have no idea," Hamilton admitted candidly after yet more gearbox troubles had restricted him to a fifth-place finish behind Button, as the Red Bulls comfortably dominated the race ahead of Alonso's Ferrari. "Your guess is as good as mine. But if it's statistically possible, then I guess it's realistically possible."

Hamilton is a fighter who always talks a good game even in adversity, and adversity didn't come much greater than in Suzuka this weekend. But he paused a moment as reality sank in, and did the mental arithmetic. "I'm now 28 points behind," he said. "It's a tough one. And it's not looking great. But it's still possible, I can still can do it with 75 points available. But if they finish all the races as they have like this, then it's a walkover."

Alonso had said that he could win the title merely by finishing on the podium in the remaining three races. Hamilton smiled at that one. "Wins will get it for us," he replied quickly, as if going for podiums was anathema to him. "If the others have problems..."

Suzuka was a weekend from hell for him that began with the shunt on his second flying lap in Friday's first practice sessions and continued with the rain that delayed qualifying until Sunday morning, then a gearbox problem that resulted in the need for a new unit and cost him third place on the grid. And as if that wasn't enough, his replacement gearbox lost third gear around lap 38.

"If we hadn't had to change the gearbox, I think we would have been in the top three for sure, if not challenging for the win with the pace we seemed to have," he suggested. "And if we hadn't had a gearbox problem in the race I reckon I would have been competing with Webber.

"Actually, I didn't think I was going to finish, with the problem. Just before Jenson's pit stop I lost third gear. I changed up from second in the hairpin and it just churned. I thought the whole box had gone but I got fourth gear, and for rest of race I could use only fourth to seventh. But my mood? I'm just happy to get through the race. I needed to finish a race, after three non-finishes in the last four. I was lucky it's a high-speed circuit, so I didn't need the low gears."

Compounding Hamilton's problem, he was suffering an ear infection throughout the meeting. "I've had bad weekends," he conceded, "but nothing overall as bad. This is the worst of all of them. The infection affected my balance a bit, left me deaf in the left ear so I couldn't use the ear plug and had to use a cotton wool bud instead. It was bruised and I couldn't hear a thing. Then both ears blocked in the race.

"I don't know what I have been kicked around by, but I have definitely had a tough one. Unbelievable, just unbelievable. It's been one of those character-building times that people talk about, whatever that means!"

Button once again questioned his team's tyre strategy after qualifying on the harder Bridgestone compound. "I thought the others would struggle on the options at the start of the race, but they didn't," he said. "I wasn't really able to push Fernando, and I had Lewis right behind me.

"We need to look at the data but to stay out when everyone else pitted was probably the wrong thing. Maybe you should cover the people that you are racing and we didn't do that. At the end of the race when we did put the option on, it was great. The car had a lot of grip and I was very fast. But we weren't quick enough to beat the Red Bulls."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us