Analysis: Hamilton must stay out of trouble

Formula One will crown its new world champion in the Brazilian Grand Prix today - with the fate of the title battle appearing to rest on whether Lewis Hamilton can stay out of trouble

Analysis: Hamilton must stay out of trouble

Hamilton's McLaren certainly appears to have the out-and-out pace to deliver him the fifth place that he needs to guarantee himself the world championship - but the fear of unreliability or an incident with another car will be haunting him and the team ahead of the season finale.

Title rival Felipe Massa has done all that was expected of him to take a pole position that puts him on course for the victory he realistically needs to snatch the crown. But all eyes will be on Hamilton to see if he can avoid drama and heartbreak in Brazil for the second year running.

McLaren appear to have opted for a conservative fuel strategy - one that has allowed Toyota's Jarno Trulli to slip between Ferrari and his team in the fight for position. And with former teammate Fernando Alonso starting right behind him on the grid, just one place ahead of the fast Sebastian Vettel in the Scuderia Toro Rosso, matters are not totally comfortable for Hamilton.

Although McLaren are adamant that they have done the right thing with their strategy, one senior figure who is not totally convinced is Honda Racing team principal Ross Brawn - a man who has vast experience of title fights for his years at Ferrari.

"For me, Lewis has got to stay out of trouble," explained Brawn. "We know he has to finish fifth, and he should do that without thinking about it. But he has to stay out of trouble.

"My only question mark is, is starting in the middle of that group the best way of staying out of trouble? Compromise your strategy, but start at the front because that is the safest place on the grid."

McLaren boss Ron Dennis said on Saturday that he believed the team were right to not compromise the best strategy - because they felt starting at the front on light fuel could cost them more.

"Off the front, with a safety car or weather, could cost us the world championship because from tenth back you've got everybody fuelled long," explained Dennis. "All of those guys are going to be ahead of anyone who has to stop in the early part of the race, and that's going to be a challenge, to get past them.

"You don't need much trying to get past people, even on a circuit where the ability to overtake is fraught with risk. So it's a complete risk assessment. We've run every single analysis not just for two weeks, for longer, of what is the right thing to do. Whatever the outcome, the decision we took was absolutely the right decision, we don't regret one moment of it."

Brawn does not fully go with McLaren's assessment of the situation, however - having learned first hand the difficulties of getting caught battling with rivals after Michael Schumacher got a puncture from Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella in the 2006 showdown.

"I would have thought their car (McLaren) is quick enough (to control from the front) but they have made that judgement call," explained Brawn.

"I know in the days when (Ferrari) were at the front of the grid, Michael starting seventh or eighth was a nightmare, because starting on the front row was so much easier. You don't only go off, you get people clip you, and you get people knock you.

"Here two years ago Michael in Brazil picked up a puncture because Fisichella hit him from behind and sliced his tyre. There is no argument, there is less risk on the front row than there is further back. How you balance that against the safety car and weather is a judgement call I agree. We will find out today."

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