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Pre-Austin analysis - Hamilton on Mansell, double points & more

31 Oct 2014

If Lewis Hamilton can repeat his United States Grand Prix wins of 2007 (at Indianapolis) and 2012 (here at the inaugural Circuit of The Americas race), his 32nd career victory will make him the most successful British Formula One driver in history with a win more than Nigel Mansell.

Hamilton admitted yesterday that his main focus is, of course, coming out on top of his intense battle for the world championship crown with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, but said of the British record: “I don’t really think about that one as much, just because I want to win the championship. Perhaps at the end of the year I will be able to look back and really think about it. But I want to win the world championship. That’s the most important thing.

“But it’s an incredible feeling… I never thought that the Hamiltons would be put on a record board with the greats. To be among the great drivers in the UK is a really proud feeling.”

He’s been on a real roll since Monza, with another four straight wins, and believes he can keep that momentum running right through to Abu Dhabi.

“I don’t see why not. But Nico’s going to be strong this weekend. He’s going to be pushing. The tables could always turn. Nico has shown this year that every race he bounces back. He’s strong. And I would do the same. We should have a [strong] car this weekend, and I’ve been strong here in the past.

“It’s been amazing. The last few races I’ve really felt great. It’s almost like there was a wall in front of me and I was trying to climb it but couldn’t quite get over it. But I’ve got over it now.”

Many observers see the upcoming double points finale in Abu Dhabi as a ticking time bomb that could create an upset finish to the title fight regardless of which driver heads into the race in the points lead. But Hamilton said he is trying to play that down in his head.

“It is what it is. As drivers we are all in the same boat. I’m aware that we could go to the last race and you’ve done all the work up until that point, and then your car catches fire and you don’t make qualifying… I’ve been there before, losing the world championship in the last race, so I know how that feels… But that’s negative energy that I’m not going to put out there.

“I don’t know if they are going to scrap it for next year, and it’s not really my place to tell Bernie [Ecclestone] what to do. He’s achieved an incredible amount in this sport. For whatever reason he has decided to do it. We’ll find out in Abu Dhabi whether it works and take it from there. But like I said, it’s negative energy worrying about it now.”

Rosberg himself remains chipper despite his run of bad luck and Hamilton’s nine wins to his four.

“The first step comes in Austin, which is a really cool city and a great race track,” he says. “I haven’t had the best races here so far, but I’m determined to change that this year.”

Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel will almost certainly take a penalty here when Red Bull chooses to use a sixth Renault engine in his RB10 after his run of ill fortune this year. If that happens the team have said they will change all of the powertrain, in which case the reigning champion will likely miss qualifying to save engine mileage and start from the pit lane after focusing on race set-up all through practice.

"Our plan could be a little bit different in terms of how we approach practice and qualifying in particular," he said. "Once you have to start from the pit lane your focus is not on qualifying because no matter what you do in qualifying it doesn't matter because you still have to start from the pits.”

Jenson Button is also expecting to have a grid drop, of five places, for a gearbox change on his McLaren.