Squeaky bum time in the championship run-in
The championship permutations are crystal clear heading into a weekend of high intensity at Interlagos. Lewis Hamilton knows he must deliver the goods in Brazil and hope his team-mate suffers a slice of misfortune in Sao Paulo or Abu Dhabi if he is to stand a chance of taking his fourth world title in the Middle-Eastern desert this year.
The most ardent of Lewis Hamilton supporters will of course attempt to keep their hopes alive by referring to the old adage that anything can happen in Formula 1. It would take a fool to crown Nico Rosberg this year’s victor before mathematical certainty, and Hamilton supporters have experienced their fair share of title turnarounds to know this to be true. This season has shown the world that potential momentum-swinging incidents are not far away and nothing should be discounted. Nico Rosberg has a commanding title lead and and is odds-on to be this year’s drivers champion, but it is not over yet.
It is difficult to argue that on his day, Lewis Hamilton is nigh on unstoppable. His blistering raw pace coupled with a seemingly unrelenting desire to win make the charge of being his team-mate an unenviable one. True, reliability has affected the Briton’s championship chances this year, however Rosberg himself has put in some commanding performances and has been there to consistently rack up the points even when second best in the race. Championships are not decided purely on victories, and racking up the points on difficult days is crucial.
Breaking the Brazil Duck…
What will serve as a confidence boost for Rosberg fans and perhaps a source of nervousness for those of Hamilton is that the Briton has never been on the top step of the podium in Brazil after nine attempts.
Rosberg has twice been triumphant in Sao Paulo and will be hoping he can put his Mexico woes behind him as he hunts down the hat-trick win that would catapult him into un unassailable lead heading into the season finale at Yas Marina.
It will surely be playing on Hamilton’s mind that he is yet to reach the chequered flag first at the cauldron-like Interlagos, and he will need one of his best performances in what is sure to be an event that throws up a few curveballs between Friday and Sunday evening.
Pace is not his problem in Brazil. The triple world champion has four fastest laps to his name (more than any other driver) and has been on pole too. Lady luck has played her part too. He was stripped of the lead and taken out simultaneously by Nico Hulkenberg as the two navigated traffic four years ago, and in 2014 he was hunting down Rosberg and looked good to undercut him only to spin as he was pushing to pass the German in the pit stop window. I will spare you Hamilton fans the pain of the finer details of his debut race also. I do want to stress, however that luck is not the sole reason and he has over the years been beaten by drivers quicker at this particular circuit.
If there was ever a track that Lewis has failed to master over race distance, it is this one. Lewis Hamilton, however, is in fantastic form heading into the weekend and it would take a brave man to bet against him taking the win bearing in mind that the other Silver Arrow only needs a second to maintain a healthy lead in the championship.
So there we have it. Both Mercedes drives are quick at this track, and both are fighting for the championship. Bring on the weekend.
Can Lewis Hamilton claim victory in Brazil? Is he able to overturn the points advantage in the world championship?
Ecclestone wants walls in Formula 1
In a US Presidential campaign defined by polarity and controversy, much of the discourse from president-elect Donald Trump centred around the building of a wall between his country and Mexico to the South.
It is somewhat ironic that Mexico itself would provoke the idea of potentially using walls to clearly define limits of the track. A white line is not enough it would seem.
Red Bull duo Christian Horner and Daniel Ricciardo have led calls for tougher “deterrents” in order to penalise those who exceed track limits. The Australian driver has presented the case for more gravel traps to be used at some corners as opposed to the expansive asphalt run-off areas that have become one of the prerequisites of contemporary circuits.
The sport’s commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has this week provided his own solution to one of F1’s most prevalent problems: walls. His comments were seemingly taken out of context as some began to envisage Monaco-style Armco wrapped around every centimetre of tarmac. Ecclestone duly clarified his comments, explaining that in his view, the white line should be raised by 40 centimetres in places in order to attempt to properly penalise those who make mistakes and not lose time or position.
The gravel trap idea put forward by Red Bull’s Ricciardo seems like the most feasible option. Not only would they serve as a deterrent and fitting penalty for those playing fast and loose with the term “track limit”, but they also do not generate multiple new safety fears that would no doubt come with the raised edges idea.
Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and its participants are masters of their craft. Granted, they are human and make mistakes, but Formula 1 is all about the need to prove yourself to be fast, whilst minimise them. Excitement is the holy grail for the fans, after all, and more gravel traps would serve to add to this.
If a driver makes a mistake, surely his race should be affected in some way and gravel traps are an objective solution as opposed to implementing the input of stewards in such situations and inviting the threat of inconsistency in application of the rules.
There are indeed corners at which asphalt run-off is a necessity – for example some higher speed ones at which the cars could possibly become airborne as a result of a coming together or being unable to decelerate in time for impact with the barrier.
Gravel traps that punish drivers for their indiscretions are surely a more desirable alternative than penalties being applied in an inconsistent manner by a carousel of stewards that change on a race-by-race basis.
Don’t get me wrong, making use of the invaluable experience of ex-drivers in the stewards room is great for analysing racing scenarios between drivers. However, the recent sporadic implementation of time penalties is surely proof that at the very least, other solutions need to be explored when it comes to off-track excursions.
Should gravel traps or walls be used to penalise driver mistakes? Would they be a fairer alternative to asphalt run-off areas? What other solutions are there?
Palmer extends Renault stay
It has been announced that Jolyon Palmer has secured his race seat at the Enstone-based Renault marque for at least another season, alleging fears that there would only be one Briton on the grid in 2017. It is rumoured that Kevin Magnussen has penned a deal to replace Esteban Gutierrez at Haas.
The pieces are falling into place as we move to the end of the season, and the next couple of weeks should see more announcements in regards to driver line-ups as the teams prepare for their assault on next season.
The lure of a (rumoured) two-year contract at Haas is surely too good for Magnussen to turn down in an ever-changing driver market, and this move allowed Palmer to remain at Renault next season alongside the recently announced Nico Hulkenberg.
Jolyon Palmer has been outscored by his more experienced team-mate thus far, however his resurgence in the second half of the season deserves credit and he can argue that the seat is his on merit as well as having financial backing. It has been a season full of challenges, but his performances have been decent in a car that has been difficult to drive whilst battling it out with his team-mate for one seat as Renault courted other drivers publicly.
Does Palmer deserve his second season at Renault? What do you make of Magnussen’s decision to join the team from North Carolina?
As ever, the the one certainty in Formula 1 is that nothing is certain. The Brazilian Grand Prix will have fans gripped as the venue could yet again prove to have a big say in the fate of the driver’s world championship.
I fully expect that the track limits saga will rumble on, and as is nearly always the case in F1, there is no end in sight at this moment and it may be a while before a long-term solution is agreed upon.
Interlagos here we come, and let’s just hope for a couple of exciting Grands Prix.
Headline image: F1.com