Tue, Aug 28, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Hamilton's luck runs out as Alonso narrows points gap

AP , ISTANBUL, TURKEY

After nine straight races ending on the podium to start his first Formula One season, bad luck has caught up with Lewis Hamilton.

During his last three races, the 22-year-old rookie dealt with a crash, a row with two-time defending champion teammate Fernando Alonso and then a shredded tire in the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton started Sunday's Turkish GP in second place but Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen passed him at the beginning. The Briton stayed third for most of the 43 laps until his car's right front tire shredded.

The McLaren team sprang into action when they saw Hamilton struggling to keep his car on the track. Hamilton made it to the pits to change the tire and get back into the race to come in fifth.

"I saw some bits fly off the tire and then it blew on braking into turn nine," Hamilton said. "It was lucky I didn't put the car in the gravel and managed to control it back to the pits as this meant that in the end I only lost two places."

"A little bit unfortunate but still we did a good job, and the team was fantastic all weekend,"Hamilton said.

The team said it was a puncture and were investigating the cause.

The mishap helped Alonso, who had been sixth after the first lap, move up to third after overtaking the two BMW-Sauber drivers, Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica, in the pit stops. Then he overtook Hamilton as Hamilton's right tire was flapping rubber.

After the race, Hamilton seemed less concerned than the team's crew. He got out of his car, took off his helmet and gave a thumbs up to the crowd watching him.

Hamilton and Alonso have been battling over a troublesome overlap in the qualifying run in Hungary. The Spaniard made him wait in the pit lane until Hamilton had no time for a flying lap. Hamilton, however, was awarded the pole position by the sport's governing authority.

More than a month ago in Germany, the McLaren driver survived a crash in the qualifying run.

He smashed into a tire wall trap next to the track when the right-front wheel of his car failed at more than 250kph. He escaped the accident unhurt but came ninth in the race, not earning any points for the first time in his rookie season.

Alonso came third in Istanbul, closing the gap between him and Hamilton in the season standings two more points. Hamilton maintains a five point lead, 84-79.

"We still got some good points and I remain in the lead of the championship by five points. So it is not at all bad." Hamilton said.

The Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 9 is next, followed by Belgium, Japan, China and Brazil.

"There are some improvements coming for the next three races. I think in Monza we will be good. So I'm not worried about that," Hamilton said. "Then the last three races. I have not been there so I have no idea. We have to wait and see."

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