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Hamilton poised to become youngest champion

October 29, 2008 10:36 IST

England [Images] expects Lewis Hamilton [Images] to become Formula One's youngest world champion in Brazil [Images] on Sunday at the same circuit where last year he buckled under pressure and blew his chance.

Brazil hopes Ferrari's [Images] Felipe Massa [Images] can somehow upset the odds and, with his home Interlagos crowd roaring him on, be crowned the country's first champion since the late Ayrton Senna in 1991.

After last year's astonishing finale, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen [Images] clawing back a seven-point deficit to prevent Hamilton becoming the first rookie to take the title, anything could happen.

The only certainty is there will be a first-time champion.

Hamilton, 23, is back with another seven-point advantage while Massa must win and hope the hand of fate favours him.

All the McLaren driver has to do, to become Britain's first champion since Damon Hill in 1996 and his team's first since Mika Hakkinen in 1999, is finish fifth.

That proved beyond him at Interlagos last year, despite starting alongside Massa on the front row, when he struggled to seventh place.

This time Formula One's first black driver is determined to make amends and show he has learned from the past by playing it safe.

"I remember last year, going into the final race, I was really on the back foot," he told Britain's Observer newspaper.

"I felt the whole country, the whole world ... I just felt this huge weight on my shoulders. I went in and made several mistakes and we dropped back. This year, because I've experienced it, I'm much better prepared."

MASSA POISED

Massa will be favourite to win the race but, even if he ends up with six victories to Hamilton's five this season, it could all be in vain for a driver who has successfully shrugged off his image as a supporting act at Ferrari.

Previously one of the more under-estimated competitors on the starting grid, Massa has shown he is a serious contender.

"I have a tougher job than Lewis in terms of the points situation but my own objective for the weekend is much more straightforward than his," he told Ferrari's website.

"The only thing I am thinking about is winning. After that the matter is not in my hands and we will have to wait and see exactly what and how much we have won."

Raikkonen won in Brazil last year, with help from Massa, and he will be called on to secure the one-two unless Massa is out of the reckoning.

With the constructors' title still to be decided, Ferrari lead McLaren by 11 points with 18 still to be won, Hamilton's team mate Heikki Kovalainen [Images] must go for victory.

"I want to be able to help the team and Lewis wherever necessary. The easiest way to do that is by running at the front," said the Finn.

Hamilton will also need to keep an eye out for Renault's Fernando Alonso [Images], his former team mate who favours Massa, and BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica [Images] as potential trouble.

Double world champion Alonso, winner in Singapore and Japan [Images], has been in the top four in his last five races and also on the podium in Brazil in four of his five previous visits.

Kubica, a title contender until the penultimate race, needs to score enough points to prevent Raikkonen from snatching overall third place from him.

© Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage

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