Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton wants win to wrap up title for Mercedes

Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton wants win to wrap up title for Mercedes
FP1: Verstappen edges Vettel and Hamilton as Red Bull set early pace | Formula 1®
Having lived up to expectations and delivered a Mexican Grand Prix triumph two weeks ago, Red Bull predicted a tougher challenge in Brazil this weekend. But the early signs are promising for them, after Max Verstappen, the winner last time out, topped the opening-practice timesheet on Friday – though less than a tenth of a second split the top three…

Verstappen, who dominated all three practice sessions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, has seemingly brought that momentum to Interlagos, the Dutchman setting the pace under the grey Sao Paulo clouds to once again lead his teams pursuit of victory.

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes hasn’t got to the bottom of why it has struggled in recent races and may not do so before the end of the season.

It was by the narrowest of margins, however, with Ferraris Sebastian Vettel just 0.049s behind the leader while Mercedes Lewis Hamilton, fresh from his championship-clinching exploits in Mexico, was a slender 0.047s further back in third.

Read more On Wednesday Formula One confirmed a new grand prix in Hanoi, which will be a street race. This season is the second time the F1 calendar has been at its longest, with a total of 21 races. The sports owner Liberty Media has expressed a desire to expand it further and the Dutch media have reported that a race at Zandvoort is increasingly likely.

Mercedes hasnt fully solved “mystery” of poor form – Hamilton

While Verstappen was buoyant in Mexico, his team mate Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable time a fortnight ago, and its already been confirmed that he will face a five-place grid penalty on Sunday after Red Bull fitted his RB14 with new power-unit elements.

Read more With the drivers title secured, Mercedes have yet to clinch the constructors championship and Ferrari must outscore them by 13 points in Brazil to take the fight to the final race. The team will be focused on maximising their points but Hamilton dismissed suggestions he would gift Bottas a victory at Interlagos.

Mercedes may not solve slump in form before end of season – Hamilton

That didnt put him off too much in FP1, though, the Renault-bound driver coming home fourth – and behind him, Kimi Raikkonen won the battle of the Finns with Valtteri Bottas, the Ferrari driver going 0.108s faster than his Mercedes rival to finish in P5.

Its not something Ive asked Valtteri if he wants but I dont think hes going to want that. Hes going to want to win it in his own way. So I dont know if Ill be doing him any favours in the sense of giving him a win, I dont think he needs that. I think he thinks he can do it himself.

Away from the top three teams, Renault and Haas are locked in a fierce battle for the best-of-the-rest accolade this season – and it was the latter who won the FP1 tussle in Brazil, with Romain Grosjean finishing in P7 ahead of team mate Kevin Magnussen.

However Hamilton does not find the prospect attractive. I am not going to be here if it gets to 25 races, thats for sure, he said. It already feels like we are on race 25 this year, so I dont think thats a good thing. I think 18 was probably the best back in the day.

And it was another promising session for Saubers Ferrari-bound driver Charles Leclerc, who despite being 1.335s slower than Verstappen, finished narrowly ahead of Force Indias Esteban Ocon.

They are also keen to expand their portfolio in America by adding multiple races and remain hopeful of taking F1 to Miami within two seasons. Next years calendar, with 21 races races, is set to run into December for the first time in more than half-a-century. 

The plane journey that convinced Ferrari on Leclerc

A relatively low-key session then, though McLarens Lando Norris – one of three Friday practice drivers to get a run out – and Magnussen both survived off-track moments, with grip at a premium at Interlagos.

To top if off, Hamilton had a Louis Vuitton wash bag attached to his waist, to create a look straight out of the local thrift store. That said, when youve won five world drivers championships, you probably have carte blanche to dress as you like.

So its Red Bull with the upper hand (but only just) going into Fridays second session. And with a possible shower of rain making an appearance, it should be exciting….

The seasons are getting longer, and the off-time is getting shorter, so from a competitors point of view the turnaround is short. You start preparing for next year as soon as the season is so done, so getting your mind tuned is very difficult. 

Red Bulls Max Verstappen headed Ferraris Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamiltons Mercedes in first practice at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

However Hamilton said: I am not going to be here if it gets to 25 races, thats for sure. It already feels like we are on race No 25 this year, so I dont think more races is going to be a good thing.

Red Bulls Daniel Ricciardo was fourth, 0.384secs off his team-mate, ahead of Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

To do so, they simply have to ensure Ferrari do not score 12 more points than them. Hamilton clinched a fifth drivers title at the last race in Mexico.

There were a couple of very minor incidents in the second half of the session, with Mercedes quickly fixing an oil leak on Bottas’ car and Kevin Magnussen’s morning ending early after ruining his supersofts with a big lock-up.

Hamilton is hoping he can bounce back to competitiveness this weekend, after two races in which Mercedes have struggled for pace.

The world champion said Mercedes had not yet got to the bottom of their problems, particularly in Mexico, where the issue in the race was a lack of tyre temperature, which led to excessive tyre damage.

However, by the halfway stage, it was five-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton was fastest with 1:09.423 on supersoft tyres, despite complaints about the balance of his W09. Verstappen was in very close quarters, just 0.037s down.

“It is not always the case you find all the solutions,” Hamilton said, “so I am confident everyone has worked as hard as they can to rectify it and push forward but it might take this race and even the next race before we fully understand it.

“So clearly we missed something and not because something was on purpose by default set wrong. So its up to us to find a fix for it and make sure it doesnt happen again, but its not so simple to find and fix it as it sounds.”

Raikkonen warns champion Hamilton that Ferrari want Constructors title

Hamilton has also said he wants to break a run in which he has failed to win another race after clinching the title in seasons in which he became champion early.

“Certainly there is a lot of stuff that happened this year and we will be able to, as a team and as an individual, be able to learn from it and take it forward and raise the bar next year.

Best of the rest were the Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, followed by Saubers Charles Leclerc and the Force India of Esteban Ocon.

Vettel defeat was sealed at the last race in Mexico when, despite beating Lewis Hamilton out on track, the Mercedes driver claimed enough points to take an unassailable lead in the standings.

Briton Lando Norris, running in first practice in Fernando Alonsos McLaren in preparation for his debut next season, was 16th fastest.

Regular McLaren racer Stoffel Vandoorne, who Norris is replacing in 2019, was 19th, using the hardest medium tyre, while Norris was on the quicker soft tyre.