Mercedes ready to wrap up fifth suc­ces­sive ti­tle

‘Tar­get was to win both cham­pi­onships, so our mind­set is one of un­fin­ished busi­ness’

Gulf Times Sport - - SPORT -

Lewis Hamil­ton is cel­e­brat­ing his fifth For­mula One world cham­pi­onship al­ready and Sun­day should see Mercedes catch up with their driver by se­cur­ing a fifth suc­ces­sive con­struc­tors’ ti­tle in Brazil.

Only Fer­rari have en­joyed such a pre­vi­ous run, with six in suc­ces­sion be­tween 1999 and 2004, and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen are the only ones who can de­lay the seem­ingly in­evitable.

For Mercedes to be de­nied at Sao Paulo’s at­mo­spheric In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit, Fer­rari will have to score 13 points more than Mercedes — a feat they have man­aged only twice in 19 races so far this year.

Mercedes are 55 points clear of the Ital­ians, with 43 still to be won after Brazil.

De­spite that, Mercedes are stick­ing to their time-worn mantra of tak­ing one race at a time and noth­ing for granted, even if no­body will be sur­prised to see cel­e­bra­tory T-shirts ap­pear on Sun­day.

“Our tar­get for this sea­son was to win both cham­pi­onships, not one ti­tle or the other, so our mind­set is one of un­fin­ished busi­ness as we head to Sao Paulo,” said team boss Toto Wolff.

“We have a big battle on our hands for the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle and we have lost ground to Fer­rari in each of the past (two) race week­ends — even though we had the base per­for­mance to do bet­ter.

“This is the mo­ment to keep our feet on the ground, fo­cus clearly on the ob­jec­tive and trust in our pro­cesses and peo­ple to de­liver.”

BIG BONUS

In 2015 and 2017, Hamil­ton did not win again after tak­ing the ti­tle with races to spare and it would also be no sur­prise for that to hap­pen again.

The con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship is still a very big deal for every­one at the 900-strong team, and not just be­cause staff bonuses are paid on it rather than the driv­ers’ one.

With no Brazil­ian driver in the race, Felipe Massa’s de­par­ture at the end of last year end­ing an un­bro­ken line ex­tend­ing over four decades, the car­ni­val at­mos­phere may be slightly more muted.

But there will still be no short­age of driv­ers keen to put on a show, par­tic­u­larly if — as of­ten hap­pens — the heav­ens open.

Red Bull’s ex­cit­ing over­tak­ers Max Ver­stap­pen and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, who has re­tired from his last two races, will hope to do that as will Hamil­ton’s team mate Valt­teri Bot­tas now freed from team or­ders and seek­ing his first win of 2018.

“In general In­ter­la­gos doesn’t suit our car that well, but after fin­ish­ing on the podium there in 2016 and win­ning last week in Mex­ico, any­thing can hap­pen in the race,” said Ver­stap­pen.

“I’ve had some great bat­tles and over­takes there and I’m hop­ing for an­other ex­cit­ing race.”

Vet­tel won last year, after Bot­tas took pole, and the cham­pi­onship run­ner-up has the best record of any­one on the cur­rent grid with three past wins in Brazil.

The race will also be a farewell for McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso, who won his two world ti­tles with Re­nault at the Brazil­ian track in 2005 and 2006 and is leav­ing For­mula One after Abu Dhabi.

“I haven’t had the chance to fight for a cou­ple of grands prix now, so I hope we can have a clean battle and show what’s pos­si­ble,” said the Spa­niard.

All teams will ap­proach In­ter­la­gos with some trep­i­da­tion after Mercedes me­chan­ics and oth­ers were tar­geted by armed rob­bers out­side the cir­cuit last time, with tighter se­cu­rity mea­sures promised.

“We have worked with the pro­mot­ers and with the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties (and) the po­lice,” Force In­dia team boss Ot­mar Szaf­nauer told race­fans.net.

“Ap­par­ently they’re go­ing to have a much big­ger pres­ence.”

(AFP)

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamil­ton cel­e­brates win­ning the 2018 driv­ers’ ti­tle with his fans after the Mex­i­can Grand Prix on Oc­to­ber 28, 2018.

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