Hamilton 'apologises' for season's cliffhanger

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton sent one message to his fans yesterday, and another to world championship rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

"I have to apologise for keeping them in suspense," he said to those backing his attempt to be the first rookie driver to win the world title. "But I'm pretty sure they'll be happy. It's been a phenomenal year and reading the fans' letters from the UK and from all over the world has been fantastic. That, along with the support from my family, gives me a lot and is important to me.

"I've never said I'm going to win," he added, "but as long as I work hard enough I will do well. Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport and anything can happen. I'm 22 so I'm going to be here for a while. Stay relaxed and keep supporting me."

Hamilton was speaking for the first time after the incident on the 31st lap of last Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix. He went to Shanghai in a position to clinch the title, but ended his race beached on a gravel bed on the entry to the pit lane.

"We made a joint decision to stay out on intermediate tyres," Hamilton revealed. "I wasn't pushing. I knew the tyres were close to the end of their life, the rears were gone, down to the canvas. I couldn't see that but I could feel a big vibration. I was off the dry line going into the pits. I didn't attack it, I approached with caution but lost the back end. I avoided the barriers but got beached.

"It was not completely my fault, it was unfortunate as I was clearly the quickest. I wanted to win the race and things like that can happen."

Hamilton said he will be going to Brazil for the final grand prix of the season on 21 October feeling optimistic. "I aim on finishing on the podium and know I can't take risks. Maybe I took a risk at the last race. I've got a lot of confidence in myself. It's got to be a hard hit knowing the championship was there and I didn't take it, but it's still there to win. I'm still in the lead and I've still got a good chance of winning, so I'm feeling pretty cool. I'm mentally stronger after the weekend in China. Some drivers would be on the back foot, but I've taken the negatives and made them into positives."

* Prodrive have ruled out using identical cars to McLaren in F1 next year, with their planned entry as the 12th team looking uncertain. Prodrive had agreed a deal with McLaren but the plan has been challenged by Williams.