SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — After a rare setback in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton hopes to get his Formula One championship pursuit back on track immediately at the Japanese Grand Prix.
An engine-clamp failure that took away boost power forced Hamilton out of the Singapore night race last weekend for his first retirement of the season.
Hamilton’s lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who finished fourth in Singapore, was trimmed from 53 to 41 points with six races left. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who won at Marina Bay, is a further eight points back.
Mercedes was surprisingly off the pace in Singapore, but expects to return to dominance on the higher-speed Suzuka circuit where Hamilton won last year ahead of Rosberg and Vettel.
“Singapore was a strange weekend but I’m chilled about it,” Hamilton said. “It’s been an incredible season so far and I've been around long enough now to accept that you can’t win them all.''
Vettel has thrived on the long straights and fast corners of Suzuka, winning here four times between 2009 and 2013.
“Looking at the results this year we’ve had a great car on every track,” Vettel said. “So I think we can be reasonably confident but we have to remain realistic. We have learned along the way so we may be a bit stronger but the favorites have to remain Mercedes with their two cars.”
Last year’s race at Suzuka was marred by a horrific crash involving Jules Bianchi, who went into a coma after the accident and died in July.
Bianchi’s accident occurred at the end of the race. In rainy, gloomy conditions, his car slid off the track and ploughed into a crane picking up the Sauber of German driver Adrian Sutil, who had crashed at the same spot one lap earlier.
“Of course, returning to Suzuka also means we will have Jules in our thoughts and I’ll be sending out strength to his family,” Hamilton said.