What happens to Lewis Hamilton at Interlagos in just over a week’s time will play a crucial role in shaping our understanding and opinions of a man who is rapidly becoming (or perhaps already is) F1’s most famous driver.
And whether the story ends in victory or defeat is not entirely down to him.
Last year he lost the title in the final two races through a combination of misjudgement, mistake and misfortune.
This year he’s had all three already: the misjudgement passing Vettel on the opening lap at Magny-Cours, clear mistakes at Bahrain, Magny-Cours, Montreal and Fuji, and the misfortune of two terrible stewards’ decisions at Spa and Fuji.
With a seven point lead heading into the final race it’s tempting to draw comparisons with the situation last year. But although eventual champion Kimi Raikkonen trailed him by the same amount at that stage the two scenarios aren’t the same. This time for Hamilton there is no added complication of a second rival – before the final race last year it looked like Fernando Alonso, four points behind, was his biggest threat.
If the title is decided by a mechanical failure, people will say ‘tough luck’, but many will also reflect on the points Hamilton threw away at Bahrain, Montreal, Magny-Cours and Fuji.
If Hamilton makes another mistake, it may confirm an impression of a driver who has all the speed and racecraft one could wish for, but is vulnerable to errors, and not simply when he is under the most pressure.
But if he wins it, the story will be different: the hot-headed racer who, at the 11th hour, tempered his wild ways and conquered the championship.
The other alternative – that the outcome might be determined by yet another bad call from the stewards – doesn’t bear thinking about.
Which will we see? That depends which Lewis Hamilton turns up: the one who crushed the opposition at Shanghai, or the one that fluffed the start at Fuji.
Read more about Lewis Hamilton: Lewis Hamilton biography
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