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Hamilton inches closer to F1 title

October 19, 2008 14:42 IST
Last Updated: October 19, 2008 15:11 IST

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton [Images] put himself on the brink of the Formula One world title with a nerveless pole to flag victory at the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Felipe Massa [Images] kept the championship alive with second place after his Ferrari [Images] team mate Kimi Raikkonen [Images] let him pass but Hamilton just needs to finish in the top five in Brazil [Images] on November 2 to become the sport's youngest champion at the age of 23.

Robert Kubica's [Images] slim hopes of winning the title disappeared despite the Pole making a sterling effort to get his BMW-Sauber up from 11th on the grid to sixth at the finish.

Hamilton's fifth win of the season, and ninth of his 34 race career, gave the Briton 94 points with Massa seven behind and Kubica third with 75. Just 10 points remain on the line at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit.

Hamilton had been subjected to barrage of criticism after a wild getaway from pole position and clumsy attempt to retake the lead from Raikkonen at Fuji last weekend.

There were no mistakes on Sunday, and no repeat of the Shanghai nightmare of last season when the rookie skidded off into the gravel at the pit lane entry in a race that could also have handed him the title.

Hamilton made a clean start, sweeping into the first corner and keeping Raikkonen well behind before wrapping up a day of domination with the fastest lap.

McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen [Images] tried to help his team mate with a vain attempt to force his way past Massa on the first chicane after overtaking Spain's Fernando Alonso [Images] at the start.

Twice world champion Alonso, who won the last two races, quickly regained fourth place from Kovalainen and held it to the finish.

Hamilton, meanwhile, never looked back and was nearly seven seconds clear of Raikkonen after the first round of pit stops.

By the time of his second stop, he had built up a sufficient advantage to comfortably return to the track with his lead intact and he crossed the line nearly 15 seconds ahead of Massa.

Brazilian Massa had been running third a substantial distance behind Raikkonen but the world champion slowed to let his team mate past seven laps from the end.

Kubica's German team mate Nick Heidfeld [Images] was fifth, his compatriot Timo Glock seventh for Toyota and Renault's Brazilian Nelson Piquet claimed the last point in eighth.

Kovalainen's 27th birthday was ruined by a run onto the grass on lap 35 which resulted in puncture to his front right tyre and he retired in the pits a few laps later.

Provisional result

1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1:31:57.403
2. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari +00:14.925
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 00:16.445
4. Fernando Alonso (Spain) Renault 00:18.370
5. Nick Heidfeld (Germany [Images]) BMW [Images] Sauber 00:28.923
6. Robert Kubica (Poland) BMW Sauber 00:33.219
7. Timo Glock (Germany) Toyota 00:41.722
8. Nelson Piquet (Brazil) Renault 00:56.645
9. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Toro Rosso 01:04.339
10. David Coulthard (Britain) Red Bull 01:14.842
11. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil) Honda 01:25.061
12. Kazuki Nakajima (Japan [Images]) Williams 01:30.847
13. Sebastien Bourdais (France [Images]) Toro Rosso 01:31.457
14. Mark Webber [Images] (Australia [Images]) Red Bull 01:32.422
15. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Williams 1 lap
16. Jenson Button [Images] (Britain) Honda 1 lap
17. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy [Images]) Force India 1 lap
r. Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) McLaren 7 laps
r. Adrian Sutil (Germany) Force India 43 laps
r. Jarno Trulli (Italy) Toyota 54 laps

(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)

Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton, 1:36.325, lap 13.

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