Hamil­ton re­turns to the tough, ca­reer-defin­ing Brazil­ian Grand Prix

The Witness - - SPORT -

LEWIS Hamil­ton makes an emo­tional re­turn to the scene of his great­est early-ca­reer pain and joy this week­end when he leads Mercedes’ bid to seal a fifth con­sec­u­tive con­struc­tors’ world cham­pi­onship.

The 33-year-old Bri­ton, who se­cured his fifth driv­ers’ ti­tle in Mex­ico two weeks ago, missed out on win­ning the cham­pi­onship in Brazil in his rookie sea­son of 2007, but went back to grab his maiden ti­tle in dra­matic fash­ion in 2008.

That tri­umph, earned with a last­lap pass that lifted him to fifth in teem­ing rain, has since be­come an iconic snap­shot which con­firmed his po­ten­tial and fired him to mul­ti­ple-ti­tle glory.

Yet as he re­turns to the de­mand­ing Autó­dromo José Car­los Pace, in the In­ter­la­gos district of São Paulo, for the 12th time, he will know he and his team face an­other ma­jor chal­lenge.

In his pre­vi­ous 11 vis­its, Hamil­ton has won only once and taken pole only twice — a mod­er­ate record for ar­guably the sport’s fastest qual­i­fy­ing driver. His Mercedes team-mate Valt­teri Bot­tas has one pole and one podium fin­ish from five starts in the sprawl­ing and tum­bling semi-bowl where a packed crowd gen­er­ates a car­ni­val mood.

Both know, too, that ri­vals Fer­rari, whose record of six teams’ ti­tles from 1999 to 2004 may be un­der threat, en­joyed a resur­gence in Texas and Mex­ico that saw them out-per­form Mercedes, re­strict­ing their ad­van­tage to 55 points with two races re­main­ing. “We have a bat­tle on our hands for the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle and we have lost ground to Fer­rari in each of the past race week­ends. Even though we had the base per­for­mance to do bet­ter,” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff.

“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.”

Wolff has con­sis­tently re­jected all ti­tle talk in ad­vance and ig­nored sug­ges­tions the team have come equipped with the now-tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tory T-shirts for a Sun­day night party.

To al­low him to drop that guard, Hamil­ton and Bot­tas must out-score Fer­rari’s pair of Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Kimi Raikko­nen by 13 points, but this sea­son has seen them achieve that only twice so far in 19 at­tempts.

Much there­fore will de­pend upon the level of mo­ti­va­tion that drives Hamil­ton in Sun­day’s race when he and Bot­tas, who grabbed pole last year, carry the bonus hopes of the team in their hands.

It is, as four-time cham­pion Alain Prost ob­served, a tricky mo­ment for the cham­pion even as he seeks his record-in­creas­ing 82nd pole and Mercedes’ 100th in F1. “His mo­ti­va­tion was to win the fifth ti­tle and now, and for next year, it is a per­sonal feel­ing about what he wants. It is not a sim­ple thing,” said Prost.

To un­der­line Fer­rari’s chal­lenge, Vet­tel is the driver with the best cur­rent record in Brazil with three wins, in­clud­ing last year’s race, and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to fin­ish his sea­son on a high.

Red Bull’s ag­gres­sive pair­ing of Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and Max Ver­stap­pen, who won in Mex­ico, will also be a se­ri­ous threat in a race in which heavy rain has of­ten played an in­flu­en­tial role. — AFP.

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