Experienced Hamilton ready to take place in F1 history
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