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Friday, October 17, 2008
Lewis Hamilton - Chinese Grand Prix
Image: © Daimer AG 2008

Lewis Hamilton Fastest In Practice Session in China

Lewis Hamilton had the fastest lap times today during the free practice sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit for the 2008 Chinese Grand Prix. The race will run Sunday afternoon (Shanghai time). Lewis made 33 laps of the Shanghai circuit, and in the morning practice session his best lap time (lap 23) was 1m35.630, which was fastest for the day. In the afternoon he posted a 1m35.750, which was .274 seconds faster than any other F1 driver.

Hamilton was enthusiastic about his performance today and it has put him in a positive frame of mind for tomorrow's qualifying. Lewis said, "From the moment we hit the track this morning the car felt well balanced and positive - and that really allowed me to get into my day's programme without any problems. No matter what we changed on the car, it just kept getting better and better, and the grip and balance kept improving."

The Shanghai circuit was completed in 2004 and designed by Hermann Tilke. It is a circuit with two extremes having 16 corners and long 300 km high speed straights, with contrasting first gear tight apex high brake entrance corners. For an F1 race engineer, car set-up is a challenge to determine the optimum balance between down force for the sweeping corners and high speed low drag laminar aerodynamics for the straights.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton leads the F1 Driver's Championship with five points over Ferrari's Felipe Massa. For the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, the Shanghai race is the one to get all the engineering, telemetry feedback and race strategy correct to support Hamilton. For Lewis, its a good result to know that he was fastest today, but there is still a long road ahead for a win in China. Its also a battle between Ferrari and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for the Constructor's Championship, as Ferrari are currently leading by seven points.

Last weekend at the Fuji circuit, Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing no points finish, so he has probably re-focused for this weekend to approach Shanghai with 100% concentration on the task at hand. Lewis was asked about his approach to this weekend's Shanghai race and what his thoughts were considering that last year it proved to be a difficult circuit for him.

Lewis had the following to say about the difficulties last year in Shanghai,  "Sometimes I've been on YouTube and seen a video clip or picture of me in the gravel last year and thought 'Damn! that shouldn't have happened.' But it was a learning mistake. I can still move forwards from it; things like that happen for a reason and it taught me a lot. Last year, the last couple of races taught me a lot about my personality and my life. And I'm stronger for it."

This weekend's race is predicted to be potentially overcast with a chance of showers, and Lewis was asked about his approach to driving an F1 car in the rain. Lewis said, "I don't mind racing in the wet or dry. Of course its safer in the dry, and I guess those are the conditions that racing drivers prefer. But having said that, I would just prefer it if the weather wasn't too changeable during the weekend; when the track starts drying out, or it starts raining during the race, is when things becomes a real lottery. At this stage in the season you need things to be as reliable as possible for you."

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' Formula 1 CEO, Martin Whitmarsh, gave his interesting perspective on the race weekend in China and race weekends in general, "For qualifying, you want to have a suitably aggressive strategy otherwise you are not going to be in the race. Then as the race develops, you are afforded the possibility to become slightly more circumspect to ensure you're scoring points you need to fight for the World Championship. And this is the approach we take into these races.

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