Hamilton shows the style of Senna
Tuesday 02 October 2007
All season Lewis Hamilton has had about him the stamp of greatness, yet never was it more evident than in the rain beneath Mount Fuji on Sunday. In conditions which caught out his illustrious world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso and made him (not for the first time) appear to be McLaren-Mercedes' rookie, the 22-year-old Englishman drove in a style reminiscent of the late Ayrton Senna to dominate the race.
Starting from the fifth pole position of his year, Hamilton won for the fourth time to stretch his points lead from two to 12 with two races left, and to demonstrate his wet weather skills to the full.
"It was a big boost in terms of confidence and in my drive to be world champion," he said. "In the final two races anything can happen, so the key is just to try to keep it on the track. It was good for me to pull that gap. I lost 10 points at the Nürburgring, so I'm very fortunate to be able to gain them back."
Alonso made noises about continuing to push to retain his crown, but it seems increasingly likely, despite denials all round, that he will be heading for a future at Ferrari, just like his McLaren predecessor, Kimi Raikkonen.
On Sunday's form, however, the great scuderia could take lessons in stewardship from McLaren after going to the start line on the wrong tyres. Prior to the race, the stewards issued all teams with an edict that, in the start behind the safety car, in appalling conditions, everyone had to run Bridgestone's extreme wet weather tyres. Ferrari, alone, ran intermediates, which do not clear water as effectively and are thus more prone to aquaplaning in such conditions. Ferrari claimed not to have received the information, sent by email, until after the start, and lost ground when both cars were called into the pits in the early laps to switch tyres.
Unusually, the sport's world governing body, the FIA, took it upon itself to issue an ambiguous statement (rather than leaving it to the stewards), which effectively said that Ferrari would not receive any post-race punishment for their clear transgression.
Cynical observers believe that was symptomatic of the malaise that has hampered the scuderia's campaign in 2007, and is the price of the sabbatical taken by the former technical director, and master strategist, Ross Brawn.
Italian sources insist the Ferrari chief executive, Luca di Montezemolo, is keen to end the era of Jean Todt, the man who masterminded Michael Schumacher's great successes. Sunday's snafu will not enhance the Frenchman's prospects – any more than the fact that Felipe Massa is out of the running for the World Championship that really matters and Kimi Raikkonen is 17 points adrift of Hamilton with only 20 still available. The more so since Di Montezemolo is keen for Brawn to return to usher in a new era.
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