Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

McLaren Regroup after Fuji Failure; Winner: Renault's Fernando Alonso Celebrates His Second Successive Victory Driving Lessons: Lewis Hamilton's Day Went from Bad to Worse after He Locked His Wheels at the Start (Left) before Forcing Kimi Raikonnen off the Track (below) and Then Being Pushed into a Spin Himself by Ferrari's Filipe Massa

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

McLaren Regroup after Fuji Failure; Winner: Renault's Fernando Alonso Celebrates His Second Successive Victory Driving Lessons: Lewis Hamilton's Day Went from Bad to Worse after He Locked His Wheels at the Start (Left) before Forcing Kimi Raikonnen off the Track (below) and Then Being Pushed into a Spin Himself by Ferrari's Filipe Massa

Article excerpt

Byline: David Smith

MCLAREN today closed ranks around Lewis Hamilton after the beleaguered driver's desperate performance in the Japanese Grand Prix saw his world championship lead cut to just five points.

Hamilton heads to the penultimate race of the season, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai on Sunday, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa snapping at his heels and Robert Kubica of BMW Sauber back in with a title shout after he finished second yesterday behind Fernando Alonso.

The pressure is now piling up for the Briton after he botched his start from pole position at the Fuji and was penalised with a drive-through penalty for braking too late while attempting to recover position and forcing Kimi Raikkonen off the track at the first corner.

Hamilton had already been forced to pit with tyres worn down to the canvas where he had locked up his wheels at the end of the main straight.

Having also suffered a spin when Massa drove into him at a chicane on the second lap, for which Massa was punished with his own drive-through penalty, Hamilton eventually finished out of the points in 12th.

Massa recovered from his own penalty to claim seventh and snatch two precious points. The Brazilian now has 79 to Hamilton's 84, while Poland's Kubica is 12 points in arrears with a maximum of 20 up for grabs.

The nightmare confronting Hamilton is a repeat of last season, when he went to China 12 points to the good only to lose the championship by one point to Raikkonen following the final round in Brazil.

But Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's chief executive, insisted the 23-year-old won't let the title slip from his grasp a second time.

He said: "Lewis is shocked and disappointed by the outcome in Japan. But he's going to concentrate, just as we are, on the next race.

"The team will support Lewis, but I'm sure he'll be regrouped and refocused by the time he gets to China. In truth, Lewis knows what he's got to do and I'm sure he'll deliver." Whitmarsh defended Hamilton over the first-corner fracas with Raikkonen,

Massa's team-mate, that again saw him fall foul of the stewards just as he had in France and Belgium.

"I was a little bit surprised by the outcome," said Whitmarsh. "Lewis didn't get the best of starts, he braked late trying to rectify that, and that led to what I thought was a racing incident. Others thought differently." Among them was Massa, who had a grandstand view of what happened after starting from fifth on the grid.

The Brazilian said: "Lewis made a bad start and Kimi passed him. Then Lewis tried to brake when everybody was already in the corner.

"He pushed to a much wider line and it was a big casino over there. For me that was too optimistic, especially if you're thinking about the championship." Massa also denied deliberately driving into Hamilton after being passed going into the chicane, even though he clearly had an opportunity to brake and avoid his McLaren rival. …

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