McLaren look strong again as Hamilton goes for title (2008 Brazilian GP preview)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Should Hamilton play it safe or push for the win at Interlagos?
Should Hamilton play it safe or push for the win at Interlagos?

Lewis Hamilton goes into the final round of 2008 knowing that he has the car to win the race – and that he only needs fifth place to guarantee the world championship and a place in the F1 history books.

Nothing in F1 is ever as simple as that, but there are several reasons why Hamilton should expect his McLaren to be more competitive at Interlagos than it was last year. So, how can Felipe Massa stop him winning the title?

Hamilton’s speed

At Shanghai McLaren – make that Hamilton – were ultra-quick, and Ferrari looked a bit lost. it wasn’t even that the race weekend was especially cold, the kind of conditions where McLaren have thrived and Ferrari have struggled this year – it just seems as though the MP4/23 has the edge on the F2008 right now.

Last year the combination of a new surface at Interlagos, exceptionally hot weather and soft tyres caused problems for the teams.

This year the surface is not such an unknown quantity, the weather is likely to be cooler, and the tyre choices are one step harder: medium and soft instead of soft and super-soft. This is more good news for McLaren.

The team is bringing a final development package for the MP4/23 to the final race including a revised rear wing. Paul di Resta tested the car at Silverstone last week.

The biggest potential weakness for Hamilton could be reliability. He hasn’t retired due to a car failure all year – or last year for that matter – but team mate Heikki Kovalainen has had two engine failures. Hamilton is no longer allowed to make a free engine change without a penalty under the rules as this is the last race of the season.

Massa’s support

Massa already enjoys huge support from his home fans, but with a championship up for grabs he can expect an immense reception. Who knows, maybe it could even be all too much?

Apart from Istanbul, nowhere is Massa stronger than he has been at Interlagos. But he needs to be on form, because Kimi Raikkonen has been getting the better of him in recent races.

As we saw at Shanghai, Raikkonen will do what he has to to support Massa. How can Ferrari use him best at Interlagos? By fuelling him light and trying to disrupt Hamilton’s race? Or keeping him on an optimum strategy to increase his chances of taking the lead at the pit stops and controlling the race from there?

Whichever, it’s a luxury Hamilton seems not to have – Kovalainen hasn’t been in a position to hep him this year, apart from scampering out of the way at the Hockenheimring.

Massa can also rely on some help – though perhaps not too much – from Fernando Alonso. He’s been turning the psychological screw on Hamilton and admitted he gave Massa space at the start at Shanghai. But don’t expect Alonso to be so charitable if he finds himself defending a potential win from Massa…

The random element

Interlagos is not a flat, pristine, tailor-built Tilkedrome. It’s short, making traffic more of a problem, especially in the sinuous middle sector. The first sequence of corners could hardly have been better designed provoke first-lap incidents.

It’s the kind of venue where the unpredictable happens: rain falls in heavy bursts without warning (’93), back-markers and race leaders tangle (’90, ’01), mystery glitches hit McLarens and then vanish (’99, ’07). And it’s not as if Massa and Hamilton have had clean, error-free seasons…

Hamilton has the car to win. But Massa is surrounded by allies on and off the track. It might look easy for Hamilton on paper, but on Sunday it will be anything but that.

More information about the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

Felipe Massa must win and - somehow - keep Hamilton out of the top five
Felipe Massa must win and - somehow - keep Hamilton out of the top five

37 comments on “McLaren look strong again as Hamilton goes for title (2008 Brazilian GP preview)”

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  1. stevepCambsUK
    28th October 2008, 12:13

    Im sure Hamilton will go for the win and rub as much salt into the Ferrari wounds as he possibly can. It will take balls to do this but im confident Hamilton can pull this off. ‘Playing it safe’ and getting tangled up in the middle of the field hoping for a top 5 slot seems more dangerous than going for pole and the ‘clean’ air.
    If he gets pole and makes the first corner safely and with no dreaded safety cars it should be plain sailing till he reaches the back markers and pitstops….. what a weekend its going to be regardless of the outcome

  2. yorricksfriend
    28th October 2008, 12:31

    Although I’d prefer Massa to win the championship I’m not particularly phased if he doesn’t, I’m simply looking forward to an excellent season ender.

  3. Just hope Heikki can stop dreaming about driving lorries & put in a great final performance this season.

    McLaren 1-2 would be most welcome

    I predict:



  4. Typo Keith:”Kovalainen hasn’t been in a position to hep him this year” help!

  5. I think lewis will play it safe; like Alonso did in 2006.

    Ferrari 1-2; Hamilton 3rd

  6. schumi the greatest
    28th October 2008, 13:22

    I think hamiltons best bet is to run fairly light in q3 to get pole. from there he should be at worst 3rd after the 1st corner and he wont have to worry about being in 5th place at race end.

    there’s no point hamilton trying to finnish 3rd or anyhting, just go for the pole and then see where he is after the 1st corner, barring a safety car and incredible bad luck hamilton should be world champ sunday, wouldnt mind seeing a wet race to see lewis blow everyone away to show why he is deserving of a tittle.

  7. Jonesracing82
    28th October 2008, 13:23

    well macca have yet to get 2 cars on the podium so far this yr i believe so i doubt heikki can help hamo!
    i think it depends on if hamo can keep his head or not!
    on a normal race i think only 2 ferrari’s and maybe alonso can beat him on pace so we’ll see!

  8. i agree with schumi the greatest, hamilton should be really aggressive in qualifying and hope he gets a good start. then cruise after his first pit.
    the last thing he should do is get tangled mid field.

    should prove to be a great race

  9. i agree that it won’t be easy for lewis, but surely he can’t lose the championship in the same way two seasons running. can he?

  10. graham228221, no of course not!!

    There’s many and wonderful ways Hammilton or Massa could screw things up this weekend!!

    You know what though, with all this talk of him needing to fear engine failure, so long as it doesn’t happen in the race I still think Hamilton could pull back the 10 place grid drop and become world champion.

    That said, remember the other year (I think it was 04) when Button’s BAR was almost bullet-proof yet Sato’s seemed to blow up regularly. I honestly think that some drivers are inherently kinder to their cars than others.

    Also, I’m sure McLaren will have done everything they’re allowed to within the rules to ensure that Lewis’ engine on Sunday is as good as it can be..!!

  11. Dennis has already said McLaren/Lewis will be aggressive in qualifying and cautious in the race. I think they’ll simply judge whether its a case of China and Lewis outperforming the Ferraris, in which case they’ll try a re-reun and stick him at the front, or a Valencia, in which case they’ll park Lewis behind the Ferraris with Kovi (??!!!) behind him as a buffer against the Ferrari no. 3 of Dom Fernando, plus Kubica and Heidfeld. Of course it’ll be nothing like either scenario…

  12. Precisely what Shumi The Greatest said above. Lewis should go sufficiently light in Q3 and get pole. Open up a gap in the first stint, then take it easy and secure 3rd or 4th. His only worry will be engine reliability.

  13. Interlagos has the long flat out run from the last corner to the first which works the engine hard but because of the altitude there is a limit to how much air and therefore fuel they can get into the engine. So they should produce less power than normal and therefore an engine failure should be less likely than at a sea level track.

    It goes without saying that Lewis should already be champion but for unfathomable stewards decision like Massa’s non-drivethrough at Valencia and Bourdais’ penalty at Fuji for ……not evaporating in to thin air I assume. So even with the farce of Spa Lewis should still already be champion. Given that it is entirely unfathomable to me why anyone would want Massa to win a championship when he is only in contention because Alan Donnelly has taken points from Hamilton and donated points to Massa.

    Hopefully the championship will be settled fairly on the track and not by either driver being taken out or by the stewards inventing yet more new penalties.

    I want Lewis to win because he and McLaren have done a better job than Massa and Ferrari over the course of the season. I can’t wait to see the pictures of Max presenting him with the championship trophy. I have a feeling though that day Max will have a rally in Ulan Bator that needs his presence.

  14. graham # 9

    Yes, He can…

  15. Mas

  16. Kieth, It was 1999 that Hakkinen had a problem that vanished not ’00.

    Great Article as always btw.

    im going for

  17. Ben – so it was, fixed!

  18. Piq

    Alex, it’s much easier to go for a Lewis DNF than that!!

  19. qazuhb

    Yes, with sure but to dream is free…

    (I´m in Morumbi, a district that is more or less 4 km from the circuit)

    Right now, in the race´s time:
    Temperature: around 20º/22ºC
    Climate: clouds with light rain.

    Lewis has arrived today at morning here and, looking to his clothes, you will see that is cold in São Paulo.

    HERE, a picture from City´s south zone this morning.

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