Hamilton vows to put China crisis behind him

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton is adamant that his "Shanghai surprise" is in the past as he continues his quest to become Formula One world champion.

Hamilton missed his first opportunity to become the first rookie and youngest driver to win the world title when he slid into the gravel on severely-worn tyres at the Chinese Grand Prix 11 days ago.

But ahead of the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Sunday, the 22-year-old holds a four-point lead over his McLaren team-mate and rival Fernando Alonso, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen a further three points adrift.

The head of Renault, Flavio Briatore, said that after what had unfolded in China, the pressure is now on Hamilton not to make another mistake. But the Briton is adamant he will not crack at the home of his hero, Ayrton Senna.

"China was another valuable lesson for me and an incident I will take from and try to develop as a driver," Hamilton said. "I moved on from the disappointment pretty quickly and since leaving Shanghai, my sole focus has been on Brazil.

"Interlagos is one of those circuits that everybody talks about. I understand it has a fantastic atmosphere, the fans are crazy for the sport and the track lends itself to great racing.

"It is another new circuit for me and there has been a lot of talk about how it is tricky to drive. That's why I see it as a special challenge and I will study the track with my engineers and get an understanding of it."

Given the title picture, Hamilton knows he has to give it his all throughout the weekend to ensure he does not let the crown slip from his grasp. If Alonso wins on Sunday, then Hamilton has to finish second. There are obviously various title scenarios that could unfold, but Hamilton knows what he has to do.

"I've had some great races with the team this year and I hope to have another one in Interlagos," Hamilton added.

"While I might be ahead by four points, the championship is still very open. I will do what I can to score the points I need, and the rest is out of our hands."

Alonso is confident of receiving the equality he seeks ahead of what is likely to be his final grand prix with McLaren.

The Brazilian Grand Prix represents the last enthralling race of the year. It is the first time since 1986 a championship showdown has gone down to the wire and involved three drivers, and on that occasion it was Nigel Mansell who missed out on glory.

Twenty-one years on and this season's duel has been overshadowed by Alonso's insinuation that he is not receiving the same treatment as Hamilton after a bitter fall-out with the team.

That has led to FIA president Max Mosley appointing the "fair-play police", an official from the sport's world governing body who will oversee all that unfolds in the McLaren garage over the weekend.

It smacks of hypocrisy that Alonso should desire the team to be even-handed when only two months ago he demanded No 1 status over Hamilton.

But Alonso believes the recent plea from Carlos Garcia, the head of the Spanish motorsport federation, to Mosley on his behalf will ensure McLaren are impartial this weekend.

"I am sure we are going to Brazil with full equality and two cars capable of fighting for victory in the race and the championship," Alonso said. "Although I am now only four points away from Lewis, I still need for there to be a lot of circumstances in my favour for me to win the drivers' title that are out of my control.

"But for sure I will be doing everything that is under my control to make it happen. I have to do my bit and then hope everything falls into place."

Alonso won his 2005 and 2006 world titles at Interlagos, and he concedes the track "has a lot of great memories". Many are backing the Spaniard to beat the Briton to the crown due to his extra experience.

One such person is Briatore, who has made no secret of his desire to have Alonso driving for him again next season.

"If he is not contracted to another team we would be happy to have him back," Briatore said.

Whatever happens on Sunday, it is almost certain Alonso will not be around at McLaren next season, although a suggestion the Mercedes board have voted him out has been denied by the German car giants.

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