Brazilian GP: Lewis Hamilton gears up to deliver definitive blow to Ferrari | Sport

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With the drivers’ championship wrapped up by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, the Brazilian Grand Prix presents the chance for a final, definitive blow to Ferrari. If they take the constructors’ title at Interlagos it would be a fifth consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ double for Mercedes, equalling the record held by the Scuderia.

It would be a remarkable achievement and noticeably one from which Ferrari intend to learn. This weekend represents a chance to begin building toward next season and their attitude seems to reflect an acknowledgment they must step up to match Mercedes and Hamilton.

With a 55-point lead Mercedes will take the constructors’ championship and match the run Ferrari achieved with Michael Schumacher between 2000 and 2004 if Ferrari fail to outscore them by 13 points at Interlagos. It would be the successful culmination to a season that had looked to be Ferrari’s.

The Scuderia started so strongly, with a car that matched their rivals and was, for a period, the best of the field. Certainly some exceptional performances by Hamilton would have been hard to beat under any circumstances but a combination of errors from Sebastian Vettel, team mistakes and a development dead end squandered their shot.

It provoked some exceptionally honest remarks from the team principal, Maurizio Arrivabene, who this week admitted they “lacked the habit of winning”.

Without a championship for 11 years Arrivabene conceded their failings. “We must be more aware of our means, and not be afraid of winning,” he said. “In tennis they call it il braccino – the fear of winning that comes when you are close to the goal. We must trust ourselves, and make winning a good habit.”

At the Autódromo José Carlos Pace, proving they have understood and learned is paramount. Although Hamilton claimed the title at the last round in Mexico, Vettel was intent on taking what positives he could from finishing on a high. “I still have a mission here and I still want to win,” he said. “That hasn’t changed. The last race was a tough one to swallow and probably the winter will be as well. But giving up is not an option.”

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They had found their pace again in Mexico where Mercedes struggled but for Hamilton there is no shortage of motivation to deny them once more in Brazil. “We still have a job to do,” he said. “This [constructors’ championship] is the most important thing. When we speak to the team at the start of the year, this is the number one priority. There are over a thousand people who work at the Mercedes factory and this is the title which means the most to them.”

Work to do for the team then but also himself. In the three of his five titles that he clinched before the last race of the season, Hamilton has yet to go on and take a win in any of the remaining rounds, an anomaly he would doubtless like to dismiss in Brazil.

There was little sign of it being an easy task for anyone however, with nothing to chose between the front runners in first practice. Less than one tenth of a second separated the Red Bull of Max Verstappen who was quickest from Vettel and Hamilton in second and third. The afternoon session was similarly tight with Valteri Bottas topping the timesheets, just three-thousandths in front of Hamilton, with Vettel seven-thousandths back in third.

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