Victory in Brazil on Sunday evening handed Sir Lewis Hamilton a lifeline in his pursuit of an eighth Formula 1 world title, with the gap between himself and Max Verstappen now cut to 14 points, leaving a clear road-map for just what the Brit has to do to win the title.
Despite the best efforts of the FIA, Hamilton was successful at Interlagos, winning the race comfortably after starting 10th on the grid due to a variety of sanctions. There are now three races left on the calendar with the F1 roadshow heading to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi Whilst Verstappen has never been in such a title fight in F1,
Hamilton has been here seven times before, and it will be a huge help to the veteran that he now knows exactly what he must do. During the Brazilian race weekend it appeared as though the Dutch driver would be in a situation where his lead over Hamilton would exceed 26 points, meaning he could afford to DNF in one of the three remaining races and still be in the lead. However, Hamilton’s dramatic win in Sao Paulo has took away such an opportunity, and now Verstappen will have to win at least one of the final three races. If Hamilton wins all three, which the pace of his Mercedes car suggests is possible, then Red Bull and Verstappen will have no answer, the title will stay with Hamilton.
The former McLaren driver is at his best when he has a clear focus, as we saw in Brazil, he didn’t have to worry about tire wear or pit-stops, he simply needed to drive as fast as he could to get as close to Verstappen as possible, and he was aided by two Safety Car periods. The controversy regarding the Brazilian weekend has led to relations between Mercedes, Red Bull and the FIA being at breaking point.
There will likely be protests over car parts galore in the coming weeks, with Toto Wolff confirming they will look at every loose bit of tape on the Red Bull car, yet this doesn’t help Verstappen. For all his youthful confidence and how assured he was that his experience in other title races before F1 was enough, the reality is that all this adds pressure. Verstappen can’t just focus on finishing races now, he needs to actively stop Hamilton winning all three remaining events, and that is a huge pressure to put on a young driver.