Sunday sees the Brazilian Grand Prix, and the final race of the 2008 season.
This year, on the eve of the last race, only two drivers can clinch the championship. Leader, by 7 points, and one of the title contenders last year, Lewis Hamilton and local driver, Fillipe Massa, team mate to the reigning champion.
Just as last year, Hamilton, in only his second season leads going into the last race with seemingly the odds stacked in his favor. But last year it went horribly wrong. An ill-advised overtakning attempt at the first corner dropped him down the field, and, just as he was starting to make progress regaining his lost places, a 30 second gearbox gremlin sealed his fate. He lost out on the championship by a single point.
Will he fare better this year?
If Massa wins, Hamilton need only be 5th or better.
If Massa is 2nd, Hamilton need only be 7th or better.
If Massa is 3rd or lower, Hamilton is champion.
This year, like last, Hamilton has produced some stunning drives. Unfortunately he has also made some glaring mistakes, enough, some would say, that would already have lost him the championship in other years.
Hamilton’s greatest asset, in many ways is also his greatest fault. Although he is fast, aggressive and entertaining, for which his fans love him, the suspicion is that he has not yet matured to be a ‘thinking’ driver. A rash early overtaking attempt in the Japanese GP two races ago resulted in a penalty that dropped him out of the points. A ‘thinking’ driver, and the name Alain Prost springs instantly to mind, would already be champion. He would not have made the passing attempt at that time as he would have been aware that there was still many laps left to go and the race does NOT have to be won in the first corner, or on the first lap.
The following race, in China, Hamilton answered the critics in the best and only way he knows. He took the race by the scruff of the neck and, error free, lead from lights to flag, posting fastest lap of the race on the way
I think that Hamiltons arrival in F1 has been a breath of fresh air, and although I would not like to see him change his style of driving, I fear that, should he have a repeat of his Japan form instead of his China form, he may be destined to become the next Stirling Moss (six time runner up, but never champion) rather than the next Ayrton Senna, or Michael Schumacher. Although I would like him to be champion, I would prefer it (as I’m sure he would) if it did it by repeating his Chinese performance rather than cruising round and settling for 4th or 5th place in the race.