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

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

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

  1. It is looking like rain. McLaren will be desperate to avoid an SC-related shuffle-back. But knowing that Massa has to win, and absolutely must avoid Kovy getting onto row 1, Massa will have to run normal to light fuel in Q3.

    I predict that McLaren will simply fuel Hamilton for a late stop, and simply shadow Massa’s pit strategy come what may. He will thus be guaranteed to keep a fuel account relative to Massa. The crisis for McLaren will come if Kubica, Trulli, and Vettel get between him and Massa. If Kovy is not on pole, keeping the barbarians at bay will be his job…if he chooses to take it.

    Of course, McLaren often outsmart themselves when simplicity and care are in order. See Hockenheim. I also think Ron may get greedy and go for the WCC in the end.

  2. Senor Paz said on 29th October 2008, 22:24

    In terms of Lewis’ race, I agree with those who reckon he should go for gold.

    He’s got the psychological edge over Massa and the better car in the great majority of possible weather conditions. Lewis should go for Q1 no matter what, PARTICULARLY if it’s going to be a rainy weekend. That would be the safest way to finish the race and to finish the championship in style.

    It all depends on the Friday times. If McLaren has the clear edge once again, they’d be crazy not to go for pole.

    And Steven, get over the whole Spa business. It was Lewis who got himself in that stupid position with the stewards in the first place. Like you said, Lewis has to answer his critics on the track. If he’s got the talent to drive like he did in Shanghai, why didn’t he do it in Fuji? Lewis is in the position he is in the championship BECAUSE OF HIMSELF. The only penalty I agree with you on is Bordais’ one, which was a terrible decision. Felipe’s Valencia pit lane incident was correctly dealt with with a fine, and that’s what should have been done to Bruno Senna in GP2. In retrospect, the stewards have been quite consistent this season, though annoyingly strict (Just look at Kimi’s Monaco penalty).

  3. Mercedes is the best car right now (well one for sure heh). Ham should take it easy and dominate last gp. I’m not his biggest fan but he earn it very well.
    However who knows, people are just people, cars are just cars (special safety) and DC is same DC. Everything can go wrong
    I can’t wait longer

  4. teamorders said on 30th October 2008, 0:18

    I’d guess Lewis will go very light in Q3 to avoid trouble in turn 1. Ferrari know this so they’ll go very light with Kimi to make sure he (and not Massa) can keep Lewis “company” through turn 1. They won’t deliberately be looking to use Kimi as a battering ram, but for sure Kimi will close the door very hard on Lewis if there’s a sniff of a chance. Anything like what Lewis did in turn 1 in Japan will result in a crash, guaranteed.

  5. Paige said on 30th October 2008, 8:13

    If I’m McLaren, I fuel Kovalainen light to get him ahead on the start and push him to win the race. This will take two potential points away from Massa and require that Hamilton need only finish 8th or higher to win the championship.

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th October 2008, 9:06

    Brazilian MET office now predicting rain on Friday and Saturday. More here: 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix weather watch

  7. shery said on 30th October 2008, 10:54

    paiqe,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,wonderful strategy,,,,,put heiki light in q3…get him pole…mclaren then can win even wcc..

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.