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McLaren maintains Hamilton hungry

Lewis Hamilton will join Mercedes next season but do not expect that to deter him from mounting a late championship challenge with McLaren.

Hamilton signed a three-year deal to race for Mercedes from 2013 with Sauber’s Sergio Perez signing on as the Englishman’s replacement at McLaren.

But there is still some unfinished business this season, starting with Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix and despite his defection to one of McLaren’s main rivals, team principal Martin Whitmarsh is confident Hamilton will stay focused at the task at hand with six races remaining.

“We have a competitive car at the minute and we have six races left,” Whitmarsh told Sky Sports.

“We can win all of those six races and in my view we can win the Championship. So starting next week in Japan we will be focusing on that.

“Lewis is a great racing driver and massively competitive. He knows there are races to win and races he wants to win himself. So we will be working hard to do that.”

Last time out, Hamilton appeared poised to take out the Singapore race before gearbox failure forced his retirement, with world champion Sebastian Vettel the main beneficiary.

The Red Bull driver’s triumph moved him within 29 points of championship leader Fernando Alonso, who finished third at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Vettel finished third during last year’s race at Suzuka and the German is determined to make amends.

“I wish I had won in 2011, it was my third Formula One race on my favourite track and it still bothers me a bit that I took my world title with a third place (in Japan),” Vettel said.

“The track itself is huge and almost every metre of it is special.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button placed second but faces an uphill task trying to claim victory on Sunday after he received a five-place grid penalty for switching gearboxes for the upcoming meet in Japan.

And while Hamilton also requires a new gearbox, he is not at risk of being penalised because he did not complete the last race.

Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen remains third in the drivers’ standings following his sixth-placed performance in Singapore.

The Finn is 45 points behind Alonso and a real chance to secure a second world championship but he will need to replicate his 2005 display – when he won in Japan on his way to a second-place finish for the season – if he is to stay in the title hunt.

Mon 1 October, 2012
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