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Will Hamilton win the world title?

Lewis Hamilton
Can Hamilton handle the pressure in Interlagos this weekend?
Lewis Hamilton goes into Sunday's season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix knowing he could be crowned Formula One world champion when the chequered flag falls.

The 23-year-old McLaren driver has a seven-point lead over Ferrari rival Felipe Massa and, even if the Brazilian wins at Interlagos, Hamilton only has to finish fifth to clinch the title.

But F1's final-race title-deciders are often littered with misfortune and drama - as Hamilton knows only too well after blowing his chances of winning the crown in Brazil last season.

Can Hamilton hang on to become Britain's first champion since 1996 and the youngest in the history of the sport - or will destiny deny him once more?

BBC Sport rounds up the opinions of motorsport's great and good as the countdown to Brazil begins.

JODY SCHECKTER - 1979 WORLD CHAMPION

Jody Scheckter, 1979 world champion
"Hamilton has been amazing since he came into Formula One. Last year he should have won the world championship and this year he should have won it a little while ago," Scheckter told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"I think it's much easier for Massa because he's just got to go out, drive hard and try and win the race.

"That's his job and it's fairly simple in that way, but it's very difficult getting a balance between going aggressively and not aggressively enough.

WHAT HAMILTON NEEDS TO DO
If Massa wins in Brazil, Hamilton must finish at least fifth to be champion
If Massa is second, Hamilton must finish at least seventh
If Massa is third or lower, Hamilton is champion regardless of his result in Brazil

"You can get into as much trouble by trying to be careful, because people hit you in the back, so it is difficult when you're in front to try and get that balance.

"Hamilton has to play it safe. If it's raining he's got to run wet tyres, not take a chance; if the tyres are wearing out he's got to come in.

"If he performs the way he's done over the last year he should win it quite easily, but you never know with Formula One."

ROSS BRAWN - HONDA F1 CHIEF & EX-FERRARI TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
Honda Team Principal Ross Brawn
"In terms of the two teams, they all know that one mistake is going to be crucial," Brawn told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"My head says that Lewis should be able to do it - with the car they've got and with the driver they've got, to score a few points shouldn't be difficult, but we saw what happened last year.

"My heart says Felipe because it's a team I was very close to and a driver I like a great deal, and he really is a very nice guy.

"He's come a huge way from where he was when he first came into this sport - quick but not really considered a prospect because he was too erratic.

"The fact that he's achieved that consistency is a real credit to him."


SIR JACKIE STEWART - THREE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION

Sir Jackie Stewart
"There's a fair chance Lewis might actually win the race - but that might just be too much to ask for," Stewart told BBC Sport.

"He certainly has more chance of winning the world championship than he has of losing it.

"I think Hamilton has learned a lot from the last two seasons; not just the Brazilian Grand Prix last year.

"The McLaren is the best car of the year in my opinion and it's a lot easier to drive than a Ferrari.

"Massa has to win but he also knows the McLaren are unlikely to finish any lower than fifth.

"So, everything is on Hamilton's side, it's just up to him not to lose the world championship."

EDDIE JORDAN - FORMER JORDAN TEAM OWNER

Eddie Jordan
"A mistake cost McLaren the championship last season and it must not happen again," Jordan told BBC Sport.

"Then it would become even more difficult in years to come for Lewis to become world champion.

"I think Lewis is in a stronger situation this year because truthfully Massa is not a Kimi Raikkonen. He seems slightly flawed in the wet and customarily Brazil is wet.

"Mentally, Hamilton seems very strong. He comes across so strong that he is perhaps, dare I say, even too strong.

"The problem I have with Hamilton is that he is alienating himself from the drivers and Formula One is a political game as much as it is about the talent.

"To have Hamilton alienated so much by the rest of the field and the stewards is a concern because when you are in a fight you need as many allies as you can possibly find."

MURRAY WALKER - F1 COMMENTATOR

Murray Walker
"This season has been enormously competitive and if Hamilton has an Achilles heel it's that he strives for perfection and nothing less than winning will do for him," stated Walker.

"Yes, he has made mistakes because of impetuosity this year but it is only his second year in Formula One.

"When the lights go out all he is thinking about is getting to the front and staying there and a way he can learn to improve is to control his emotions.

"It's a very steep learning curve and he still has a lot to learn.

606: DEBATE
Weareracing

"I would be absolutely delighted if Hamilton won the world championship. He is a fresh, young face and what you see is what you get.

"It would be immensely important if he wins because people were getting a bit bored with Formula One, with Schumacher and Ferrari winning year after year.

"Hamilton has come in with a very good car and he has captured the imagination of the world and raised the profile of F1.

"But we should never lose sight of the fact that if it wasn't for McLaren, Hamilton would not be where he is now, in some ways he is the first manufactured F1 driver."

JACQUES VILLENEUVE - 1997 WORLD CHAMPION

Jacques Villeneuve
"Hamilton has the championship in his pocket, he's controlling it," Villeneuve, who pipped Schumacher to the 1997 title in the last race of the season in Jerez, told the BBC.

"The only thing that can happen to him now is to be unlucky.

"I don't think team tactics will play a part in the race because there have been punishments for that in the past.

"Ultimately as a driver you don't want to help your team-mate anyway.

"The difficulty [for Hamilton] is you still have to drive aggressively; you have to be aggressive to run at the front.

"The minute you don't you end up going a little bit slower, you are in the middle of traffic and that could have a negative effect.

"Hamilton has got a lot of talent and he's very fast but it all depends how cool he is under difficult situations.

"He cracked under pressure last year and there've been a few mistakes this year but it seems less than last year so there's been a positive progression.

"If he wins the championship what will make the difference is if he can keep his feet on the ground - that will be his biggest hurdle."

JOHN SURTEES - 1964 WORLD CHAMPION

John Surtees
"It is not going to be easy for Lewis," Surtees, who hauled back a five-point deficit to snatch the 1964 world title from Graham Hill at the final race in Mexico, told The Times.

"Massa is going to be very quick but at the same time he does not need to race Massa.

"Hamilton needs to make certain of a good grid position to stay out of trouble, he has to forget about the championship and think about the race.

"You need to harness inner competitiveness with brain functions and Lewis is an extreme competitor like Michael Schumacher but he is not a stupid person."

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA - McLAREN DRIVER 2005-06

Juan Pablo Montoya
"I think Felipe will probably win the race," Montoya, who now races in the American Nascar series, told Autosport.com.

"If I was Lewis, I would not be anywhere close to him. If Felipe comes anywhere near him, I would let him by.

"Lewis has got to play this pretty smart. When you are that young and you are in Formula One, you want to win every race. That is great but when you are points-racing all of a sudden, you have got to learn that a different result can be the best one for you.

"I think Lewis will win the title, I will be surprised if he doesn't. He has done a good job with his career and I think he is a great guy."

JOHN WATSON - McLAREN DRIVER 1979-85

John Watson
"When the first title arrives for Hamilton I think there will be many more titles," Watson told the BBC.

"His career and future are as long as he wants them to be but right now things are pretty intense and I think most people don't realise that.

"He has not got the experience and he is making errors; but the fundamentals are he has got the commitment, he has got the speed and he has got the team behind him.

"This title race is really little more than the beginning.

"Can a man equal Michael Schumacher and go beyond seven titles?

"Well, right now Hamilton is the only one who has the capacity and the burning ambition to go out and achieve it - but it is an enormous task and we'll have to wait and see."

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see also
Interlagos, Brazil
17 Feb 08 |  Circuit Guide
I will help Massa win - Raikkonen
29 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
21 Oct 08 |  Formula One
The man Hamilton must beat
30 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Massa shrugs off title pressure
28 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Ferrari make F1 engine row threat
28 Oct 08 |  Motorsport
Schumacher expects Hamilton reign
27 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton targets final title push
24 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton can take pressure - Hill
19 Oct 08 |  Formula One


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