Lewis Hamilton begins the opening lap of his championship-winning parade at this week’s Brazilian Grand Prix after he clinched the title in Mexico.
Britain’s new quadruple champion finished ninth at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez to seal an unassailable lead over title rival Sebastian Vettel with two rounds remaining.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at the key talking points heading into the penultimate race of the campaign in Sao Paulo.
As a kid, I always dreamt of being in Formula 1. I never lost sight of that dream, even when people said it would be impossible. I stand here now with 4 World Championships and am proof that if you follow your dreams with everything you have, they can come true. I am so grateful to all 1,500 people in my Team who all have a dream of making the best F1 car and tirelessly make that dream a reality. My fans, #TeamLH, I would not be here without you. You've carried me through adversity and shared my joy in moments such as these. Truly, thank you. We are all rising together and I am so excited for what our future brings together. #LH4 ????#StillWeRise #TeamLH @mercedesamgf1 ????@suttonimages
Hamilton in the spotlight after Paradise Papers claim
It should be a weekend of celebration for Hamilton after he became Britain’s first four-time champion. But controversy is often never far away from the Englishman, and he arrives in Sao Paulo under a cloud following claims in the recently-leaked Paradise Papers. It has been suggested that Hamilton dodged a £3.3million tax bill on the distinctive red private jet which charters him around the globe. A spokesperson for Hamilton attempted to distance the Briton from the allegations earlier this week, but whatever your view, there can be little denying that his reputation has taken a hit. Talk of ‘Arise Sir Lewis’ – a debate which rightfully took place after he won his fourth title – may now be put on the back burner. Hamilton is due to face local media at a Petronas sponsorship gig in Sao Paulo on Wednesday before taking centre stage in the main press conference at Interlagos a day later.
Will Ferrari turn their back on Formula One?
Ferrari overlord Sergio Marchionne announced last week that the Italian team will consider their position in F1 after the sport’s owners Liberty Media outlined their vision for the future – most notably changes to the engines beyond 2020. The idea is to make the engines cheaper, noisier, and simpler, but the concept has not gone down well with at least three of the sport’s four engine suppliers, with Ferrari the most vocal. This is not the first time Ferrari have threatened to walk away from the sport – but how much weight does their latest threat carry? “If the regulations come out where Ferrari think it is going to be a struggle and they can’t support the money then they will leave,” said Bernie Ecclestone, who knows a thing or two about negotiating with the mighty Italian giants. It has been all sweetness and light for Liberty since their January takeover – but make no bones about it, this is their fiercest fight yet.
Max on the money after Mexico triumph
Max Verstappen returns to the scene of his finest Formula One performance in Brazil this weekend. Twelve months on from his miraculous drive in the torrid conditions – where he fought from 16th to third in the closing 16 laps – the Dutchman, a winner last time out in Mexico, will be looking for another strong result here at Interlagos. And with more than a whiff of the wet stuff forecast for this weekend, do not bet against the 20-year-old being among the frontrunners again.
Race for runner-up spot hots up
Valtteri Bottas moved to within 15 points of Vettel in the race for second after he followed Verstappen home in Mexico. The Finn was in desperate need of a strong finish after being outclassed by Mercedes team-mate Hamilton during the second half of the season, and he took advantage of the chaotic start in Mexico City to record his best result since July’s British Grand Prix. Vettel led Hamilton by 25 points after Monaco and it would be a tough pill for the German to swallow to finish the season behind Bottas, too. But after his recent rough luck, it is hardly an unthinkable scenario.
The future’s bright for British motor racing
While Hamilton has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons this week, elsewhere there has been some very encouraging news for the future of British motor racing. First, Lando Norris, the 17-year-old who emulated Hamilton by winning the Formula Three title last month, was confirmed as McLaren’s reserve driver for next season before Force India revealed they would be handing Englishman George Russell, 19, his grand prix debut in opening practice here on Friday. Russell, a Mercedes junior who won the GP3 title with one round to spare, will also be given a run out in Abu Dhabi later this month. Hamilton is currently the only Briton on the grid, but perhaps there really could be life after Lewis?