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Rediff.com  » Sports » Hamilton puts points first in Japan

Hamilton puts points first in Japan

October 08, 2008 15:48 IST

Lewis Hamilton will curb his natural attacking instincts at the Japanese Grand Prix in order to strengthen his grip on the Formula One world championship.

The McLaren driver was odds-on to win the title last year after a superb win at a rain-soaked Fuji Speedway, only to blow a 12-point lead in the final two races.

Another victory in Japan would put Hamilton in a position to win the title in Shanghai and make up for his error there in 2007 when he slid off on his way into the pits.

Hamilton heads into Sunday's race seven points clear of nearest rival Felipe Massa with three races left after finishing third in Singapore two weeks ago, while Massa failed to score.

The 23-year-old Briton, however, accepts he may have to put safety first again in Japan.

"I hate driving for points but I think we can all see the benefit of that approach at the moment," he said. "Singapore was a good learning experience.

"There was less pressure to achieve a victory because of the unusual circumstances, which meant I was able to start thinking of the world championship."

FERRARI HOPES

Massa, who went from first to last in Singapore after a bungled Ferrari pitstop where he was given the green light while the fuel hose was still attached, finished 13th in the race won by Renault's Fernando Alonso but was still confident.

"A seven-point gap can be a lot or it can be a little," said Massa. "In Singapore my gap went from one point to seven suddenly so it could easily go the other way as well."

Massa desperately needs struggling world champion Kimi Raikkonen to end a run of four races without a point and anchor a Ferrari one-two in order to turn the title race around.

Raikkonen's slump wrecked his championship ambitions, the Finn only mathematically still alive in the drivers' standings, 27 points behind Hamilton with only 30 left to win.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has demanded that Raikkonen "drives like a world champion" in the remaining races to assist Massa.

"We need him at 100 percent," di Montezemolo told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. "We need him to help Massa, to race for the team and finish in front of the McLarens."

BMW-Sauber's Polish driver Robert Kubica, third with 64 points, 20 adrift of Hamilton, needs to win in Japan and hope the top two fail to score to remain any sort of threat.

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