• Japanese Grand Prix

Car problem to blame for Hamilton's poor race in Japan

ESPN Staff
October 11, 2012 « Drivers' Twitter exchange won't boil over - McLaren | Vettel focused on development race »
Problems with Lewis Hamilton's McLaren resulted in a poor setup © Press Association
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Lewis Hamilton has revealed that there was a problem with his car at the Japanese Grand Prix that led him down a blind alley with his setup and cost him performance.

Hamilton finished fifth at Suzuka after qualifying ninth and complained of understeer throughout the weekend. He believed he had opted for the wrong setup but said McLaren discovered a problem with the rear suspension after the race.

"I know my car really well and it's very rare that I get the setup wrong, and if I do it's only a little bit wrong and I can still live with it," he said in Korea. "But this was the worst I'd ever set it up and I was really shocked that I'd done that and I thought it was my fault. But after the race the guys did a lot of analysis and found we'd had a failure on a part at the rear so that's comforting for me and it means I'm not crazy! So I'm happy we've found that and it won't be a problem this weekend hopefully."

Hamilton clarified that it was not a complete failure of the component: "It wasn't a suspension failure because I could still drive it, but there was just a part that helps the balance and when you set it up it should react in one way and it just didn't."

McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale explained that the problem had resulted in Hamilton taking the wrong direction.

"I think we had some setup issues in Japan," he told the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes phone-in. "Lewis took some of the responsibility on Saturday for the setup direction and I think with the benefit of hindsight after the event there were some technical issues with the car on Friday that contributed to he and his engineer taking a particular setup direction that, with the benefit of hindsight, was wrong. So that's not entirely a judgement call, there were some technical issues that were wrong and we probably should have found. We can rectify that situation and we have a quick car so there is no reason why we can't fight at the top end of the grid again."

Neale said the understeer was exacerbated during the race when rubber debris built up on one of the aerodynamic surfaces towards the front of the car.

"At or around about lap 21 Lewis felt what he thought was a mechanical balance change in the car and our thought is that that was probably an aerodynamic balance change as a result of rubber debris somewhere either on the front wing or around the front floor," he added. "He ran four laps with a car with a very forward balance that made it very difficult to control and all of a sudden it cleared.

"So whatever was on the car let go and Lewis came over the radio and said the car felt like it had just come to life and he could drive properly again. But there was certainly a four- to five-lap window where he was struggling with a car that wasn't behaving and we think that was tyre debris somewhere in the system."

Hamilton thinks the issues prevented him fighting for the podium.

"I don't think we would have beaten Sebastian[Vettel]; he was rapid that weekend. But I think me and Jenson had the pace to at least lock out the second row and at the beginning of the weekend I definitely had the pace to fight for a podium finish. Same for Jenson I think."