x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hamilton has positive feel for Yas

Beleaguered but battle-hardened, Lewis Hamilton says he is determined to finish the season on a winning note, starting with victory at Yas Marina Circuit next weekend.

Lewis Hamilton, left, and his teammate, Jenson Button, say they still have plenty to race for in the final two races of the Formula One season.
Lewis Hamilton, left, and his teammate, Jenson Button, say they still have plenty to race for in the final two races of the Formula One season.

ABU DHABI // Beleaguered but battle-hardened, Lewis Hamilton says he is determined to finish the season on a winning note, starting with victory at Yas Marina Circuit starting November 11.

On track, the McLaren-Mercedes' 2008 world champion has endured a shambolic season that has seen him finish on the podium just once in the past seven races, while off-track he has seen his aggressive driving style routinely criticised by his peers.

Yet he returns to the UAE capital for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with positive memories. "I started from pole position there in 2009, and I led the race until I was forced to stop because of a brake issue," Hamilton said. "Last year, I finished second and set the fastest lap, so we head there looking to convert all that potential into a race win."

The fight for the world championship has been over for close to a month now, but Hamilton is adamant he is ready to give his all to secure his third race win of the season at the penultimate grand prix.

"Red Bull and Sebastian [Vettel] may have clinched both championships, but I'm still determined to end the season on a winning high," said Hamilton, who added that a strong rear wing and kinetic energy recovery system should help maximise his car's potential at Yas. "I've won two grands prix this year, and I'd love to double that by the end of the year."

Jenson Button, Hamilton's teammate who finished second at the Indian Grand Prix behind Vettel, said he is "very optimistic" about his team's chances.

"We saw at the last grand prix that even though we didn't have the ultimate speed to catch and pass Sebastian, we made him work hard for the win," said Button.

"The championship may not be at stake any more, but we're still aiming to win races and put on a tremendous show."

Last year's race was criticised for a lack of passing manoeuvres, but with new regulations in place this season, organisers are confident their track can produce an entertaining race.

Button hopes so.

"It's usually been quite difficult to overtake here, especially last year, but I think that DRS [adjustable rear wing] will change all that," Button said. "The back straight is one of the longest in Formula 1, so I expect to see a lot of action there. It would be great to see the new rules turn this circuit into a place where overtaking is more common and more exciting."

The McLaren team are not the only ones with positive memories of Yas. Kamui Kobayashi, the Japanese driver with Sauber, returns to the scene of his first points-scoring race, while teammate, Sergio Perez, won the GP2 race last year.

"Abu Dhabi is the track where I scored my first three Formula One championship points when I came sixth back in 2009," Kobayashi said. "It was only my second Grand Prix, and for sure I will never forget that." Sauber sit seventh in the constructors' world championship on equal points with Toro Rosso and only 10 points behind sixth-placed Force India. Perez says he arrives in the emirate in positive mood and ready to help close the gap.

"I'm coming back with almost one year's experience in F1," he said. "I am very much looking forward [to it] and absolutely determined to make the most out of it and score as many points as possible."

The Abu Dhabi event is the only twilight grand prix on the 19-race calendar, but while many spectators assume the setting sun must be hazardous to the drivers - who are forced to fit their helmet visors with tinted tear-off strips - Kobayashi says the main issue is keeping the tyres warm.

"The challenge doesn't really come from the changing light, but the track temperature drops significantly when the sun sets. This makes it quite difficult to adapt during the race."

Ross Brawn, the team principal at Mercedes-GP, arrives with his two drivers - Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg - battling each other for seventh place in the drivers' championship. Unsurprisingly though, he is focusing on achieving a solid team performance at what he called Mercedes' "home race". Aabar, the Abu Dhabi-based investment company, are a shareholder and partner of the German team.

"On the back of a two-car points finish, and a very good team performance at the inaugural Indian Grand Prix [last week], we will be working towards a similar result in Abu Dhabi," he said. "It would be a very great pleasure to achieve this at Aabar's home race."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae