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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hamilton closes in on title with China win

Lewis Hamilton moved one step closer to securing the 2008 world championship, winning the Chinese Grand Prix after a dominating Shanghai weekend.

“This is another step towards the championship and towards my dream and towards my team’s dream,” Hamilton said. “The team deserve it. We have worked very, very hard throughout the season and I think our approach to this race was right.”

Felipe Massa was second in his Ferrari after teammate Kimi Raikkonen handed him the position in the closing laps, but falls seven points back in the standings heading to his home race in Brazil.

Neither Ferrari was a match for Hamilton this day, and the Briton now must be looked on as the favorite to win the title.

“For us we were completely driving on the limit trying to reduce the gap but it was not possible,” Massa said. “I was trying to push as Kimi was trying to push to get closer to Lewis but it was not possible. So today unfortunately Lewis had the better car for the whole weekend.”

Robert Kubica found his title chase at an end, his sixth place finish an accomplishment considering where he started, but not good enough where it counted.

"After a very difficult qualifying I'm pleased with sixth,” Kubica said. “There is now one race left, and I shall try hard to defend my third place in the drivers' championship."

Hamilton’s brought Fernando Alonso’s two-race winning streak to a close, the Spaniard finishing best of the rest with a strong fourth.

"Fourth place is the best result that we could have hoped for today and so I am therefore extremely satisfied with my race. We had good pace, close to the Ferrari, which is another reason to be pleased,” Alonso said. “We have now won the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship, which was our objective, and so we can approach the Brazilian Grand Prix with confidence and aim to make the most of this final race of the year."

Nick Heidfeld was fifth in the second BMW Sauber, inheriting the position when Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren suffered a puncture. The Finn would later retire. Timo Glock finished seventh for Toyota, and Nelson Piquet took the final points-paying position in the second Renault.

Hamilton certainly looks to have exorcised the ghosts of both last week’s disaster at Fuji and last year’s mistake here in Shanghai, topping every session save one this weekend.

He then drove a flawless race, taking the first corner with ease and was never really under pressure from Raikkonen.

“I managed to get everything right on the formation lap. I was perfectly in my position and it was a great start, it was really probably one of the best we’ve had... I got into turn one quite clear, I took it easy the first few corners then I started to bridge the gap,” Hamilton explained. “Fortunately we were just very, very consistent and I think every lap was faster and very, very few errors throughout the whole run, therefore I was able to create a gap and from there it was pretty smooth sailing.”

Raikkonen chased Hamilton through the second round of stops, then handed the position to his teammate, helping Massa’s slim chances at the world championship.

“I know what the team expects and I know what we want which are results,” Raikkonen said. “It is racing and I have nothing to lose or win in a way. I am driving for the team, so it is a normal situation.”

Hamilton held a considerable gap over his rivals at the checkered flag. The result leaves him with a seven point margin going into Brazil, a place where Massa is always strong, but he only needs to finish fifth to lock up the championship.

The silver lining for Ferrari is the team extended its edge in the constructors race, earning 14 points to McLaren’s 10.

“I think for the Drivers’ Championship (the result) was not fantastic but for the Constructors’ it was very good,” Massa said. “It is always very important to fight for the Constructors’ and today we did a good job thinking of the Constructors’ Championship. I try on the Drivers’ but it was not possible today.”

After years of Michael Schumacher domination, and championships decided months before the end of the season, for the second year in a row the title will be decided in the final race. Hamilton is confident this time around he can deliver.

“I know going to Brazil will be a much better situation compared to last year and also we know that we will be a lot more competitive than we are here, so that is comforting,” Hamilton said. “We know that we have got to do a good job. It will be tough and these two (Massa ans Raikkonen) for sure will be pushing us hard but hopefully as a team we can pull through.”

A title-clinching victory for Massa in front of his home crowd would certainly result in pandemonium, but the odds would seem long. Of course, as teammate Raikkonen can attest, stranger things have happened. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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