Hamilton blames set-up mistake
McLaren driver frustrated after struggling to find car balance
Last Updated: 06/10/12 10:46am
Lewis Hamilton has blamed a wrong turn in car setup for his disappointing qualifying performance at the Japanese GP at Suzuka.
The McLaren driver was only ninth fastest, a long way behind team-mate Jenson Button who was the only man to get close the Red Bulls.
The result is a hefty blow to Hamilton's lingering title hopes as he looks to overhaul a 52-point deficit to Fernando Alonso and leaves the 2008 World Champion on the backfoot ahead of Sunday's race.
"I was nowhere, I made a big mistake with the set-up," Hamilton told Sky Sports News.
"And when qualifying starts you can't do anything to fix it, so I was just driving round with masses and masses of understeer. We had it in P2, we made changes for P3 but then we had oversteer, so we went back to the setup we had yesterday and made a couple of small changes to it - but it was a disaster."
Sky Sports F1 pundit Anthony Davidson has refused to write off Hamilton's chances in the race, but feels it could be a similar story to the British GP, where the 27-year-old struggled - qualifying and finishing eighth.
"It seems reminiscent of Silverstone were we just saw Lewis Hamilton struggle all weekend," Anthony observed. "Don't forget Jenson Button was on top of Lewis all weekend last year and he won the race here, one of the best drives of his F1 career in fact. So you can't expect Lewis Hamilton to beat Jenson in qualifying as he is no slouch, but maybe the race will be different."
With just six races left, the 2008 World Champion needs to consistently outscore his rivals, but Davidson believes that Hamilton's chances would be over if he failed to finish on the podium.
"No definitely not," the former Super Augri driver said. "As long as there is a mathematical chance, anything is possible. When you have one of the weaker team, driver combinations at the front in terms of speed - they are hanging on at the moment - the Championship fight is definitely on.
"You feel it is becoming a three-way fight between Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton, but at this moment you feel that it is Vettel who will able to mount a serious challenge."