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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report


Hamilton faces key test at revamped Fuji

September 27, 2007 18:13 IST

Lewis Hamilton [Images] faces a key test of his mettle in Japan [Images] this weekend that could make or break the Briton's Formula One championship hopes.

The 22-year-old, bidding to become the first rookie world champion, needs to beat his McLaren team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso [Images] at a circuit he has never even seen before.

While Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix cannot be the championship decider, with two more races still to come after the sport's return to the scenic Fuji circuit for the first time in 30 years, it will be hugely significant to the eventual outcome.

Hamilton leads Alonso, winner at Japan's Suzuka circuit last year with Renault, by just two points while Ferrari's [Images] Kimi Raikkonen [Images] is third and a further 11 behind.

Ferrari's Brazilian Felipe Massa [Images], the fourth man still harbouring championship hopes, is 20 points adrift of Hamilton and in danger of being ruled out of the reckoning.

While the Ferrari drivers will be playing catch up, Hamilton and Alonso know that whichever of them leads after Fuji could be in a position to win the title in Shanghai the following weekend.

Alonso already has more race wins than Hamilton this season, which means the Spaniard need only score two points more than the Briton to be back in the lead for the first time since April.

None of the title contenders have ever raced at Fuji, although Alonso did a couple of demonstration laps in a road car with passengers last year. 

BIT DISAPPOINTED

"I haven't even seen Fuji Speedway yet, but I am sure it will be a great place to race," Hamilton said in a team preview.

"We will have to wait and see what it is going to be like as I do not really have a major image in my mind at the moment," added the Briton.

"I have to say when I was first asked about my feelings of Fuji, I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn't be getting to race at Suzuka because everyone goes on about how great it is, but this season I have really enjoyed going to new tracks and learning them."

Alonso, who won both his titles in Brazil [Images], said he was expecting the season-ender in Sao Paulo to again provide the clincher.

"I am sure the championship will continue to swing between all four drivers," said the 26-year-old, whose future at McLaren is clouded with uncertainty after a major falling out with team boss Ron Dennis.

"Ferrari were strong at Spa, we were strong at Monza, everyone in the team is pushing hard to be strong at Fuji, Shanghai and Interlagos."

Sunday's race will be all about the drivers, with Ferrari having already secured their 15th constructors' title after McLaren's decision not to appeal against a record $100 million fine and the loss of all their 2007 constructors' points due to a spying controversy.

The fallout out from that saga will rumble on however, with all eyes on Alonso amid increasing speculation that he could be headed for Renault or even Ferrari once the season is over.

That rumour mill was only fuelled by Dennis revealing in a transcript of the spy hearing released last week that his relationship with the Spaniard was very cold and that they had not been on speaking terms since early August.

© Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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