The way I see it, Lewis Hamilton travels to Brazil this year in a very different frame of mind from last year, much lighter in spirit, more focusse...
The way I see it, Lewis Hamilton travels to Brazil this year in a very different frame of mind from last year, much lighter in spirit, more focussed and with a much better understanding of what it takes to close this championship out.
The most significant difference though is that he does not have to worry about Fernando Alonso in the sister car. It was the Spaniard last year who dominated Hamilton’s thoughts at the finale after a season of bitterness and recrimination. Alonso felt that he could have won the title if McLaren had just restrained Hamilton a bit, and he’s right. Going into that last race, Hamilton was four points ahead of Alonso and seven up on Raikkonen, who went on to win in Brazil. Hamilton wasn’t really thinking about him and yet he emerged the champion.
This year Hamilton’s mind is clear and focussed on Felipe Massa only; he knows that he will have a harmonious and serene atmosphere in his team all weekend, despite Kovalainen's alleged complaint about being disadvantaged with heavy fuel in qualifying, and that he can focus all his attention simply on having a strong race, as he did in China.
With a seven point lead, the job is almost done, but there are however two very real real points of concern for him; his engine reliability and the start of the race, which is highly risky in Brazil, because of the way the first two corners flow with 20 cars arriving at speed with cold brakes and tyres. I’ve seen some huge shunts there over the years and plenty of contact, spins and bits of bodywork knocked off.
Last year it started to get away from Hamilton at the start when Alonso jumped him and he reacted much as he did in Fuji this year, with a red mist. After that his race was finished off by the gearbox gremlin which cost him 40 seconds. Ferrari had a significant performance advantage over McLaren in Brazil last year, which it doesn’t look like they will have this year. Not least because it seems that once again Bridgestone are bringing a harder choice of tyre than Ferrari would like. Last year it was the soft and super soft, this year it's the soft and medium. This has kippered them twice recently; in Germany and in China. And just to make sure, McLaren have been developing a special ‘Interlagos pack’ for the car, to give Hamilton the best shot at doing well there. As this season winds to a close, Renault has made great progress to be the third fastest car in the field but is still not fast enough to get involved in the fight at the front, so in a normal weekend, Hamilton can expect to finish at least third and be champion.
The other thing to keep an eye on is the engine. Kovalainen lost an engine which was on its second race in Fuji and prior to Singapore he had to change his engine because there was a reliability issue there. Hamilton will use his Shanghai engine again in Sao Paolo and even though he was able to turn the revs down in the final ten laps or so today, it will still be a mild concern because of what happened with Kovalainen’s unit. And as Michael Schumacher found in 2006, an engine failure at the end of the championship can happen, even to the most reliable of teams.
Chinese GP: Red Bull qualifying report
Clarification Note from Grand Prix F1 du Canada
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The pitfalls in Brazil
|FP1||Fri 25 Oct|| |
|FP2||Fri 25 Oct|| |
|FP3||Sat 26 Oct|| |
|QU||Sat 26 Oct|| |
|Race||Sun 27 Oct|| |