Lewis Hamilton would love to celebrate his honorary Brazilian citizenship with a winning return this weekend to Sao Paulo’s Interlagos, the circuit where last year he enjoyed one of his greatest victories.
Formula One’s seven-times world champion is still chasing his first success of the season and to do it in the penultimate race, at the home of his late boyhood idol Ayrton Senna, would be quite something.
“I need all the energy we can get, OK? We’ve got to get that Brazilian flag up on top (of the podium),” Hamilton told local reporters at an event with team sponsor Petronas on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old Briton is battling against the odds, however.
“On paper, it shouldn’t be quite as strong a circuit for us as Mexico, but regardless, we want to keep up our momentum from recent races. So, we will keep working hard to hopefully be in the mix once again,” said his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Hamilton, who has won in every season since his debut in 2007, finished second in the previous race in Mexico.
He has triumphed three times in Brazil, including two of the last three races at Interlagos, and accepted honorary citizenship this week.
Formula One currently has no Brazilian driver and the last home winner was Felipe Massa in 2008, when Hamilton won his first title with McLaren.
Last year’s race, like this weekend’s, was run to the sprint format and Hamilton went from last on the grid on Saturday to fifth at the finish, then taking a five-place drop for Sunday’s main event and roaring back from 10th to win.
“It’s a track that both of our drivers have typically gone well at and it’s a sprint race where we can pick up more points,” said Mercedes’ strategy chief James Vowles.
“And when you have a car within a few tenths of your competition, you can make things happen.”
With both titles won by Max Verstappen and Red Bull, Mercedes are fighting Ferrari for second place. The Italians are 40 points ahead with 96 available from Brazil and the final round in Abu Dhabi.
Plenty is at stake from the last two races, with the division of revenues decided by the positions in the constructors’ standings.
Renault-owned Alpine and McLaren are separated by only seven points in the battle for fourth while Aston Martin are four behind sixth-placed Alfa Romeo.
Haas, in eighth, are a point clear of Red Bull-owned Alpha Tauri.
“Thanks to the Sprint format we have two attempts in which to score points and extend our lead to McLaren heading into the final Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi,” said Alpine’s double world champion Fernando Alonso.
At the top, Verstappen will be seeking to extend his record tally of wins in a season to 15 while Red Bull are eyeing a 10th win in a row.
If they succeed, the final Sunday at Yas Marina could see Red Bull equal McLaren’s 1988 record of 11 successive wins in a single season and send them into 2023 chasing Ferrari’s all-time best of 14 in 1952-53.
“While the focus has, for sure, already shifted to next year with the car, we also focus on the car we have at the moment,” said Verstappen, who won the season’s two previous sprints, after Mexico.
“We try to win the next two races, that’s for sure.”