Form favours Hamilton

The championship leader, rookie British driver Lewis Hamilton, has a strong chance of becoming the sport’s youngest-ever title holder at the age of 22, writes Alan Henry.

The slight mistake that cost Lewis Hamilton his chance of wrapping up the Formula One title in Shanghai, China, on October 7 is unlikely to prey on his mind when he attempts to become the first rookie driver to win the World Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix on October 21.

“The great thing about Lewis is you just know he can cope,” said Ron Dennis, the McLaren chairman.

“He’s probably one of the few Formula One drivers who could quote you sections from the FIA regulations. He wants to understand everything and to be the best driver and team member in every respect. He is totally focused on being the best driver in Formula One.”

Hamilton, who leads the championship by four points, still has a strong chance of becoming the sport’s youngest-ever title holder at the age of 22. His punishing daily physical training regime with his dedicated trainer, Adam Costanzo, will continue and the senior McLaren team management remain confident he can get the job done.

“We need to emphasise one point here,” said Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren chief executive officer. “Lewis turned himself into the driver he is today. He did all the hard work. We just provided the support and the structure in which he could hone his skills. From day one Lewis impressed us with his level of commitment; if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have invested a penny in him.”

Niki Lauda shares the team’s confidence and believes Hamilton is the best driver currently competing. “Lewis must totally put the experience at Shanghai out of his mind and tackle Brazil in exactly the same way as he has all the other races so far this season,” the Austrian former triple world champion said. “Now, having seen pictures of just how worn one of his rear tyres had become, I’m just amazed that he lasted out there for so long. Faced with the same set of circumstances I think even the most experienced world champion would have made the same mistake.”

He added: “The more I think about it the more I find it difficult to believe that McLaren failed to bring him in to change tyres two or even three laps earlier. I can only assume that McLaren were desperate to win the race at all costs which I feel was a bit of a tactical mistake when they could have been protecting Lewis’s championship lead.

“Despite this, I think the form he showed both in China and Japan indicate that he is fully capable of dealing with whatever Interlagos can throw at him.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton’s team-mate, the world champion Fernando Alonso, is convinced that McLaren will give both him and his British rival the same opportunities in the championship-deciding race in Brazil. “I’m sure there’s going to be equality,” Alonso said.

“One thing is how they feel, what they say about me, but what they do on track is a different thing, and usually they have had two cars that are exactly same, capable of fighting for victory. And that’s what I think will happen in Brazil, so everything will be up to me.

“The second half of the season has been difficult and it still is, but I think in the end the two cars will be the same. They are going to give us both the same opportunities, I think we need to make that clear.”