Pride at stake in Brazil af­ter main ac­co­lades won

CityPress - - Sport - MICHELLE FOSTER sports@city­press.co.za

The cham­pi­onship is over, the ac­co­lades won; there is noth­ing left to fight for but pride – and, of course, the Brazil­ian Grand Prix win.

Last time out in Mex­ico, Lewis Hamil­ton wrapped up the Drivers’ Cham­pi­onship to hand Mercedes the 2017 dou­ble.

The 32-year-old over­came a slow start to the sea­son – by Mercedes’ stan­dards, at least – to once again write his name in For­mula One’s record books as the sport’s most­dec­o­rated Bri­tish driver with four world ti­tles.

Hamil­ton, though, is by no means will­ing to gift the fi­nal two races to his ri­vals.

Need­ing an­other two vic­to­ries to equal his ca­reer record of 11 wins in a sin­gle sea­son, he in­sists he won’t let up, telling jour­nal­ists in Brazil: “It wouldn’t feel nor­mal to back off at this mo­ment. It is the best time ever to ap­ply even more pres­sure – just be­cause I can. There are still two wins avail­able.”

The Brit doesn’t have a great record at the In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit as last year’s wet race handed him his only Brazil­ian Grand Prix win.

The cir­cuit still holds many good mem­o­ries as it is here that he wrapped up his first world ti­tle back in 2008 by over­tak­ing Timo Glock in the fi­nal lap to fin­ish fifth, tak­ing the crown by a sin­gle point ahead of Felipe Massa.

Hamil­ton could face a stern chal­lenge to­day as Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Valt­teri Bot­tas are locked in a bat­tle for sec­ond place.

Drivers may tell you it doesn’t mat­ter, that only P1 counts, but sec­ond is al­ways bet­ter than third.

The duo are sep­a­rated by 15 points in Vet­tel’s favour as Bot­tas re­duced the deficit last time out when he fin­ished as run­ner-up in Mex­ico, while Vet­tel was in­volved in – some would say in­sti­gated – first­lap con­tact that dropped him and Hamil­ton to the back of the field. He re­cov­ered to fourth.

Fer­rari have not won in Brazil since 2008, while Mercedes have claimed three on the trot.

As such, the Scud­e­ria will be hop­ing that the weather lev­els the play­ing field, although this week­end’s rain is expected to let up be­fore to­day’s race.

But the man of the mo­ment is with­out a doubt Max Ver­stap­pen, who has won two of the last four races to outscore his ri­vals dur­ing that time.

With Red Bull putting the building blocks into place for next sea­son, ex­pect them to con­tinue push­ing hard.

The team be­lieves wins are pos­si­ble in the fi­nal two races, they just need to avoid en­gine penal­ties. Un­for­tu­nately for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, he is likely to re­ceive just that af­ter his en­gine fail­ure in Mex­ico.

With the top four teams in the cham­pi­onship set in stone, there is still a close tus­sle in For­mula One’s mid­field. Wil­liams are lead­ing that on 76 points, how­ever, Toro Rosso, Re­nault and Haas are sep­a­rated by just six points – mean­ing there is a lot of money at stake for the team that man­ages a strong fin­ish to this sea­son.

Spare a thought for the 19 non-Brazil­ian drivers as they’ll be­come the Brazil­ian equiv­a­lent of chopped liver when Felipe Massa races in his fi­nal home Grand Prix.

This time last year, the Brazil­ian said a tear­ful farewell with his Wil­liams F1 car breaking down and leav­ing him parked on the side of the track.

To thun­der­ous ap­plause from the par­ti­san crowd and a guard of hon­our by the pit lane, Massa took what was to be his fi­nal walk down the In­ter­la­gos pit lane with a Brazil­ian flag around his shoul­ders and tears pour­ing down his face.

This year, it is likely to be a more muted farewell as Massa in­sists it is def­i­nitely his last – again.

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