Immaculate Hamilton on brink of title
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton has moved to the brink of the Formula One title by winning the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Felipe Massa.
The McLaren driver led from start to finish, producing a superbly controlled display, but Massa kept the championship race alive by finishing second, 14.9 seconds adrift.
Hamilton leads the drivers’ standings by seven points, with 94 to Massa’s 87 ahead of the final race of the season at the Brazilian’s home track of Interlagos. BMW‘s Robert Kubica has been mathematically eliminated from contention.
If the 23-year-old finishes fifth or better, he will become the youngest Formula One champion even if Massa wins.
However, he took the same lead into the final race of 2007 at the same track, and ended up surrendering the title to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
“All weekend we’ve had God on our side, and the team have done a phenomenal job,” said a jubilant Hamilton.
“The car has taken a big step forward, it has felt fantastic all weekend and I owe so much to the guys.
“It was quite straightforward actually. I managed to do everything right on the formation lap. I got a great start, probably one of the best we have had. I got to turn one first, took the first few corners easy and then started to create a gap.”
Massa said: “Lewis was stronger today. It was not a good result for the drivers’ championship, but not so bad for the constructors and that is good for the team.”
While the previous race in Japan provided non-stop drama, this was a processional race – but Hamilton’s supporters will not mind given the recent criticism of his aggressive driving style.
The only mild controversy came from Ferrari, whose outgoing world champion Raikkonen slowed to let Massa through into second late on.
Although there were no ‘team orders’, the intention of the move was clear, and Massa takes two extra points into the final showdown on November 2.
Hamilton appeared unfazed by Raikkonen’s decision to allow Massa through, saying: “It was inevitable Kimi would let Felipe past.”
Raikkonen said of the arrangement: “I knew what to expect and what we wanted. I’m driving for the team. It’s normal in this situation.”
Ferrari struggled to match Hamilton’s pace all weekend, even after selecting a softer tyre compound for the first stint.
Things were not so straightforward for Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who retired with brake problems and also suffered a puncture.