How Lewis Hamilton can clinch fourth world F1 title
PUBLISHED: 11:55 29 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:55 30 October 2017
Wolfgang Wilhelm for Daimler AG
Lewis Hamilton could clinch a fourth Formula One world title in Mexico today to confirm his position as Great Britain’s greatest F1 driver.
The 32-year-old Mercedes F1 racer from Hertfordshire leads the world championship by 66 points from Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel with three races to go – including today’s 2017 Mexican Grand Prix.
Four-time world champ Vettel qualified on pole position at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez on Saturday. It was the German’s 50th F1 pole.
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen will line-up alongside Vettel on the front row in P2.
The Silver Arrows will start the Mexico Grand Prix from the second row.
Hamilton was third fastest in the qualifying results with a lap of 1m 16.934s in Q3, nearly half a second off Vettel, with Mercedes colleague Valtteri Bottas fourth.
Stevenage-born Hamilton will claim his fourth world title if he finishes fifth today, even if Vettel wins the race in Mexico.
To take the championship battle to the penultimate round in Brazil, Vettel needs to take the chequered flag today with Hamilton sixth or lower, or be second with Hamilton lower than ninth.
If Hamilton wins the title today, he will join Vettel and Alain Prost as a four-time world champion, with only Juan Manuel Fangio, with five, and Michael Schumacher, with seven, ahead of him.
After qualifying Hamilton said: “Pole position was the goal today, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It was a difficult session and I think it was a difficult weekend overall.
“It is very slippery here; and some of the issues we have with the car are a little bit highlighted by that.
“I gave it everything I had, but the gap to the front was too big.”
However, Hamilton hasn’t given up hope of clinching the title in style.
He said: “Our long run pace is definitely better than our qualifying pace, so I’m not worried about that.
“But you need a big delta to overtake here, so track position is important.
“It is a long way down to Turn 1, so we should have some fun tomorrow [Sunday]. I’m hoping I’m able to move forward at the start.
“Afterwards it should be a one-stop strategy.”
He also thanks the huge Mexican support for making the race so special.
“The crowd looks incredible, there’s a lot of energy,” added Hamilton.
“It’s such a spectacle from above; I saw the camera from the helicopter. So winning here on Mexican soil would be pretty neat.”
Both Silver Arrows drivers completed one run on the UltraSoft compound tyres in Q1, and two runs in both Q2 and Q3.
Bottas qualified fourth with a time of 1m 16.958s.
The Finn said: “Our qualifying wasn’t good enough; we thought we could fight for the pole.
“We definitely struggled a bit compared to at least one of the Ferraris and one of the Red Bulls, for some reason they found quite a bit of lap time for Q3.”
Like Hamilton, Bottas feels more confident about today’s grand prix. He said: “I’m still optimistic for the race. We had good long runs yesterday [Friday] and we’ll have a strong car tomorrow [Sunday].
“As a team, we’re starting from the second row, and it’s such a long run into Turn 1 here.
“Hopefully we can have a good start and use the slipstream to our advantage. It should be an interesting race.”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff congratulated Vettel “on a very impressive pole position” and, given the situation, was “reasonably satisfied” with third and fourth places on the grid.
Wolff said: “We have locked out the second row this afternoon and, to be honest, I’m reasonably satisfied with that.
“We knew that it would be difficult for us here, running at a high downforce circuit, so the result is okay with that in mind; it feels like we have taken a step forward in these conditions compared to recent races.
“There were big gaps between team-mates today, so it is nice to see our drivers so close together, especially as Valtteri only had one opportunity to set a time in Q3.
“That shows he is bouncing back in the right way from a difficult run of races.
“Now we have to look forward to a long race tomorrow. Lewis had a promising long run during second practice, so there are still plenty of opportunities open for us to take.”
Mercedes technical director James Allison added: “Although we felt that we were in the hunt heading into qualifying, we found ourselves on the back foot in all three sessions with a car that was not quite on the same pace as the Red Bull and Ferrari.
“Nonetheless, Lewis and Valtteri did a strong job to put both cars on the second row of the grid.
“It was disappointing for Valtteri that he lost his best lap in Q3 as a result of being blocked but we know from our practice running, and from Lewis in particular, that the long run performance looks very strong.
“There will be all manner of opportunity tomorrow to make good on the disappointment of today.”