Hamilton looks to extend lead in Valencia

VALENCIA: Drivers’ championship leader Lewis Hamilton expects some tough competition at this weekend’s European Grand Prix, but claimed he has some ‘unfinished business’ at the Valencia street circuit.

The 2008 champion has led team-mate and fellow Briton Jenson Button in two consecutive one-two victories for McLaren and believes that his team are now in great shape to extend their lead at the top.

Hamilton has set his sights on a third consecutive win, but warned that it won’t be easy and expects another exciting race.

“I’m really looking forward to racing in Valencia.” said Hamilton, “I had a great, attacking race there last year but I’ve finished second for the past two seasons, so I feel like I have some unfinished business.

“It’s not a circuit where we’ve seen too much passing in the past, but I think this year could be different — the grid is so tight, there were battles all through the field in Montreal last week, so I think we could have a close and exciting race this year.”

Defending drivers’ champion Button believes the McLaren team have built a strong momentum after their recent results and expects the nature of the Valencia circuit to suit his McLaren car.

“As a team, we’ve taken maximum points in the last two races and it feels like we’ve really gathered considerable momentum.” he said.

“The team really is functioning as a single unit, so I think we head into Valencia next weekend hopeful of being able to once again capitalise on that determination and ambition.

“Even though it’s a street circuit, it’s quite a bit faster and there are some low-speed corners with some fairly unforgiving walls at the apex, but there are also some high-speed changes of direction and some long straights, so it’s quite an interesting place set-up-wise.

“It’s not as if you completely rely on downforce, there’s a trade-off, and that should suit our package.”

Button added that he was surprised that Red Bull are not in a better position in the standings after dominating the early part of the season.

“I think it is a surprise that Red Bull are not at the front,” he added, “They have been so quick at every race but we have done a very good job, especially the last two races.

“We have been quick but we have also done a better job over the whole weekend.”

Brazilian Felipe Massa is convinced he can still win the world championship and that new upgrades to his Ferrari in Valencia will help kick-start his season.

Massa has not been on the podium since finishing second in Australia, but the 28-year-old believes that the new points system means a couple of good results could transform his season.

He said: “Until you see from a mathematical point of view that you don’t have a chance anymore, the championship is definitely open,” he said.

“We saw that in two races many things changed. Many things can change quickly in another two races.”

Ferrari team-mate and double champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso is also looking forward to returning to his home country and hoping to gain some ground on the championship leaders.

“I expect a very strong Ferrari again in Valencia,” said Alonso. “The goal is to be on the podium on Sunday afternoon. The dream is to win the race. I think there’s a good atmosphere in the team and I’m very optimistic.”

Finn Heikki Kovalainen is also in the mood for a memorable weekend as Lotus celebrate their 500th Grand Prix.

He said: “This is obviously a historic weekend for Lotus, and for Lotus Racing, and I think we’re starting to do justice to what’s gone before us – it’s fantastic that we can celebrate such a great milestone in Valencia, and it’ll be an honour to be part of it.”

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