Lewis Hamilton may have already claimed the 2017 title but there is still plenty up for grabs as the paddock heads to Brazil for the next race on the Formula 1 calendar.
Hamilton’s ninth place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix a fortnight ago was hardly a classic but it was enough for him to take the crown, moving him alongside Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost on four world championships.
For most of the year, Hamilton had been battling against Sebastian Vettel in a Ferrari that is widely regarded as being a better overall package compared to his Mercedes. The result has been some enthralling races and breathtaking wheel-to-wheel action.
The Englishman absolutely dominated some races – like in Britain, Italy and the USA – but it was at other grand prix that he has stepped up a gear this year. Catching Vettel in Spain and winning the wet-dry race in Singapore, where he so spectacularly failed in 2016, says a lot about his mentality and approach to this season.
Now considered one of the ‘greats’ of Formula 1, Hamilton’s career is far from finished and he now has the chance to bust a host of records. He already holds the record for most pole positions at 72 and that is likely to just keep growing. And if Hamilton can grab victory at Brazil or Abu Dhabi he will finish the season on 10 wins for the fourth time, with no other driver managing to do this more than twice.
On what he has done to be the best in 2017, Hamilton said: “My consistency has been a major factor. Qualifying has been great. I have generally always felt races have gone well but qualifying has been a good step forward in consistency. The starts were very strong.”
“Across the board there was not one particular subject I was trying to work on this year; it’s everywhere and how you divide that energy on the things that are not perfect, trying to be the best all-round driver you can be.”
With the title in the bag, Hamilton will not be content on having an easy drive around the 7.960km / 4.946 mile Autódromo José Carlos Pace, or more commonly known as Interlagos for its positioning between two lakes.
“Now the pressure is off, we can go and enjoy these next couple of races,” he said.
“I think it is important we focus exactly as we have and continue to race as we have.”
“This is not an opportunity for us to take our eye off the ball. The pressure is off so we should be able to perform better than we ever have and I believe we can.”
Massa Retires, Again
It was this very time last year that Massa retired from Formula 1 before an urgent call from Williams convinced him to return to the driver’s seat.
The Brazilian, who has won 11 grand prix, has again announced his retirement but this time says the decision is final.
“I agreed to return this season to help Williams when the call came,” he said.
“I have now enjoyed four great years with the team, but my career in Formula 1 will finally come to an end this season.”
Massa had originally wanted to drive in 2018 but set a deadline of the Brazilian Grand Prix for Williams to decide their line-up. But Williams haven’t formalized anything yet and have been testing veteran Robert Kubica who has not raced in Formula 1 since a horrific accident in 2011 left his right-wrist with only partial movement. He has reported impressed in those tests but questions remain over his fitness and Williams are also considering reserve driver Paul Di Resta, Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Red Bull’s reject Daniil Kvyat.
This comes at a time when Sauber are also looking at their 2018 driver line-up, with at least one of the Ferrari proteges Charles Leclerc or Antonio Giovinazzi set for a seat.
Under their engine deal with Ferrari, the Sauber team are required to take one of Maranello’s young drivers, and negotiations are ongoing for the team to take both Leclerc and Giovinazzi so Ferrari can assess them against each other. This potentially means Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, who is substantially financed by some of the investors who now own Sauber, will be without a drive next season.
It all means that there is a lot at stake at Interlagos and drivers will be out to impress in front of the usual boisterous Brazilian crowd.