Ex­pe­ri­enced Hamil­ton ready to take place in F1 his­tory

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING -

LEWIS Hamil­ton in­sists he is bet­ter pre­pared than ever to sew up a fourth For­mula One crown and sur­pass Jackie Ste­wart as Bri­tain’s all-time great­est driver. Hamil­ton, the 32-year-old English­man, will clinch his third cham­pi­onship in just four sea­sons if he fin­ishes in the top five in Mex­ico City this af­ter­noon.

The odds are stacked heav­ily in his favour. Hamil­ton has seen the che­quered flag in 22 con­sec­u­tive grands prix and has failed to fin­ish out­side the top five just once.

Hamil­ton won his maiden cham­pi­onship in only his sec­ond year in the sport, pass­ing Timo Glock at the last cor­ner of the fi­nal lap in Brazil to fin­ish in fifth place. The move, in the fi­nal race of the sea­son, meant he beat Felipe Massa to the ti­tle by just a point.

But how does Hamil­ton think he has evolved over the last nine years?

“The only dif­fer­ence is that in 2008 I was a kid,” Hamil­ton replied. “I had all the nat­u­ral tal­ent I have to­day but I didn’t have the knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I’m now fight­ing a cham­pi­onship-win­ning team in Ferrari and a cham­pi­onship-win­ning driver in Se­bas­tian (Vet­tel), and I am much bet­ter equipped than I was in 2008.

“It’s been more en­joy­able for that rea­son. I’m al­ways chang­ing things, adding things. Even­tu­ally you learn about your­self, what you like, what you can and can­not take on to con­tinue to per­form at your best.

“Rac­ing is my pri­or­ity and I have got to make sure what­ever I do out­side the cham­pi­onship com­ple­ments that. So bit by bit, trial and er­ror, I add things into my life.”

Hamil­ton has been largely fault­less in his pur­suit of a fourth ti­tle — one which would see him join an elite band of driv­ers to have won the cham­pi­onship on more than three oc­ca­sions — but he made a rare er­ror in the open­ing mo­ments of sec­ond prac­tice on Fri­day.

The Mercedes driver lost con­trol of his car on the exit of Turn 11 be­fore slid­ing into a spin.

Hamil­ton de­stroyed his set of tyres — which may af­fect his race strat­egy to­day — but cru­cially avoided any con­tact with the bar­ri­ers, and he gin­gerly made his way back to the pits.

“The day did not re­ally start out great, with the big spin on my first lap,” added Hamil­ton, who fin­ished sec­ond in both prac­tice ses­sions on Fri­day.

“That re­ally threw me off and ob­vi­ously made it a lit­tle bit tricky to get the run on the su­per­soft tyre. So I put my­self on the back foot. But the sin­gle lap and then the long run on the ul­tra­soft com­pound was prob­a­bly one of the best I’ve ever done.”

Max Ver­stap­pen kept Hamil­ton off the top of the timesheets in yes­ter­day’s fi­nal prac­tice for what prom­ises to be a ti­tle-de­cid­ing Mex­i­can Grand Prix.

The 20-year-old Red Bull driver lapped the Au­to­dromo Her­manos Ro­driguez with a fastest lap of one minute 17.113 sec­onds, a track record.

Hamil­ton, who has a 66-point lead over Ferrari’s Vet­tel, was 0.075 slower on a sunny morn­ing in the cap­i­tal.

For a while in the fi­nal prac­tice ses­sion, Hamil­ton was sixth fastest and slow­est of the driv­ers at the lead­ing teams and ap­par­ently strug­gling, as he has done sev­eral times this year on tracks with sim­i­lar low-grip, slow-cor­ner char­ac­ter­is­tics to this one.

Lewis Hamil­ton gets ready for the third prac­tice ses­sion ahead of the F1 Mex­ico Grand Prix at the Her­manos Ro­driguez cir­cuit in Mex­ico City

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