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Lewis Hamilton World Champion at last

The headlines say it all: “Can Hamilton become new Muhammad Ali?”, “Can Hamilton be as good as Schumacher?” Both in the upmarket Times.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton wins Formula One World Championship

Then it’s back down to earth with a bump: “Cheers and boos for Lewis Hamilton, Britain’s new Formula One champion.” The Times again.

What about a totally positive headline? “A relaxed, funny and balanced champion. Ed Gorman wonders how anyone could dislike Lewis.” Er… also The Times.

Any naysayers here? “He is on top of the world but ‘aloof’ Hamilton is still struggling to win over large sections of the sporting public.” You’ve guessed it: The Times, and all on the same day.

Lewis Hamilton, the youngest Formula One world champion ever, certainly seems to have an image problem. His fellow drivers all but accuse him of being a danger to their lives. Spanish F1 fans spit racist remarks on websites and trackside.

And, yet, Hamilton is set to earn more money than any other sportsman in history — and that includes Tiger Woods.

The race itself was a classic. Hamilton went in seven points ahead, and had to finish at least in fifth place if Felipe Massa won.

Massa was in pole position, while Hamilton was fourth on the grid, his horizons closing in on him.

The Brazilian duly went on to win on his home track. However, disaster struck for Lewis Hamilton when he was relegated to sixth position near the end and all seemed lost.

The Brit stuck to his guns, though, and didn’t give up. On the very last bend he attempted a stabbing overtaking move and finished fifth.

The Ferrari team were already celebrating their man’s victory when the news of Hamilton’s heroics hit them.

The rest is history.

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Hamilton 7th loses world title

In what was yet another dismal race for Lewis Hamilton, the young rookie driver could only trail in 7th in the Brazil Grand Prix after a bad start and repeated gear box failures.

Kimi Raikkonen winner of the 2007 Drivers’ Championship

Given the wall of ill-fate he encountered, his heroic attempts to claw his way back up the field, once the McLaren team had fixed his gear box remotely, at least got him into the points.

Kimi Raikkonen won the race in his Ferrari and took the Drivers’ World Championship, clocking up six wins in the season to Hamilton and Alonso’s four each.

Raikkonen ended a bad-tempered season on 110 points, while Hamilton and Alonso shared second place one point adrift.

Ron Dennis will probably be grateful that a truly awful season, in which his team was fined an eye-watering $100m, can now be put to rest.

However, he did attempt to appeal against a stewards’ decision not to penalize other teams for using fuel at lower temperatures than are required by the rules.

The result stands.

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Massa on pole, Hamilton second on grid

Felipe Massa is in pole positon with Lewis Hamilton second for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton in Brazil GP practice

Happily, Hamilton escaped with his championship dream in place last night after his McLaren team went unpunished for illegally using two sets of wet-weather tyres in yesterday’s first practice session.

McLaren were fined £10,500 for the error. The Englishman takes a four-point lead into the title decider tomorrow.

Team boss Ron Dennis said, “It was 100 per cent our fault, not Lewis’s. Perhaps we were too tense.”

Hamilton said, “For me, I am so competitive. I always want to over-achieve, I want to achieve more and more and more. I want to win. I want it so bad, and the last race really showed me just how much I want it. I’ve been leading the championship now since the third race, and for me that’s just mind-blowing. Coming into the season, I was just hoping to do a good job, maybe get some points and podium positions, so I never imagined I would have four race wins and six pole positions. But I have the chance to win the world championship this weekend, and if I do, then fantastic. It will be a big step in my career and my life. If not then I will live to fight another day and I will move on to next year and try to win it then. But I feel I was born for this, so I know I’ve got it in me.”

He added, “It’s quite surreal being here. For many years I’ve wanted to come to Brazil and race at Interlagos. My first real opportunity is now here, and I’m buzzing. I can’t wait. I’m really excited about this. I look back and I’ve had a phenomenal season for my first year in Formula One. I’m 22 years old and very fortunate to be driving for McLaren. I’m very, very privileged to be in the position I am now, and I never thought I would be here, days away from potentially winning the world championship. I was in my hotel room yesterday looking out of the window, and I was thinking ‘wow!’ ”

Tomorrow’s race will be a sea of dreams.

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A Brighter Prospect for Super Aguri

We tend to forget that, in every race, someone has to come last. And the guys fulfilling this useful role most often in 2006 have been the Super Aguri team. I was fairly dismissive of their efforts in my previous post on them, but it may be that I was wrong. A study of the fastest laps in the Brazilian Grand Prix reveals the surprising information that the Aguri drivers managed to be seventh and ninth fastest.


The Renault team celebrate with Super Aguri

Okay, we can point out that these times were done fairly late in the race after some cars had retired and others were taking it easy to ensure finishing. But the Aguri times are up there with drivers who were still involved in the battle to keep Michael Schumacher back:

4 Jenson Button, Honda, Lap 70, 1:13.053
5 Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Lap 70, 1:13.121
6 Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, Lap 58, 1:13.281
7 Sakon Yamamoto, Super Aguri, Lap 67, 1:13.379
8 Rubens Barrichello, Honda, Lap 48, 1:13.391
9 Takuma Sato, Super Aguri, Lap 47, 1:13.401
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi, Toro Rossi, Lap 69, 1:13.687

To be amongst that sort of company, the car must have become increasingly competitive as the race progressed. The Renault team had the decency to share their championship champagne with the Super Aguri guys, recognizing that Sato’s tenth place finish was an important milestone for the tail-enders.

This was achieved with a car that is still essentially an ancient Arrows chassis, considerably modified and powered by a Honda engine. Next year the team will have to produce a chassis from scratch and that will be an important step forward for them. Their goal must be to move away from the tail end of the field, although it is difficult to see who would take their place. All of the smaller teams go into 2007 with high expectations and it is impossible to predict who will be successful and who won’t.

But things look brighter than I expected for Super Aguri and, when we hear that Anthony Davidson is in with a good chance of racing for them next season, we can have some hope that he will do well.

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