Mercedes to wrap up fifth suc­ces­sive ti­tle

Only Fer­rari can spoil the team’s chance of se­cur­ing con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship in Sao Paulo

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Alan Bald­win Lon­don

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.

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 in 2018.

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.”

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 in 2017 ended an un­bro­ken line ex­tend­ing over four decades, the car­ni­val at­mos­phere may be more muted.

But there will be no short­age of driv­ers keen to put on a show, par­tic­u­larly if, as often hap­pens, it rains. Red Bull’s ex­cit­ing over­tak­ers Max Ver­stap­pen and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, who has re­tired from his past two races, will hope to do that, as will Hamil­ton’s team­mate, 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 in 2017, 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 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, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and po­lice,” Force In­dia team boss Ot­mar Szaf­nauer said.



Fo­cused on task at hand: Lewis Hamil­ton, left, who has al­ready won the world cham­pi­onship, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff now have the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle to gun for.

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