Lewis Hamilton has the 'upper hand' and deserves the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship slightly more than Ferrari rival Felipe Massa – that is the view of the pair's competitors as the crucial Interlagos showdown dawns this weekend.
Hamilton enters the Brazilian Grand Prix with a seven-point advantage over Massa in the drivers' standings, but then he carried the exact same margin over the Brazilian's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen at the same stage last year – and still ended up missing out on the laurels by a single point to the Finn when the chequered flag fell.
Though his peerless Chinese Grand Prix victory would seem to suggest the nerves and over-enthusiasm that blighted both the McLaren-Mercedes star's 2007 showing in São Paulo and Japanese Grand Prix outing at Fuji Speedway earlier this month are now a thing of the past, Massa has argued that the pressure is all on the Briton this weekend. Not so, suggests David Coulthard.
“The pressure is on Felipe in that he has it all to do,” the Scot – set to hang up his F1 helmet at the end of 15 seasons in the top flight this Sunday – told ITV Sport
. “He has to nail qualifying and he has to win, and even then that might not be enough.
“With a seven-point lead Lewis is the most likely to achieve the championship; I think that is quite clear. He has led the championship for the majority of the season and it should be a formality.
“I think Massa is probably the most improved driver of the year. We have always known that he has speed, but some of his drives this year [have been those worthy of a champion] – notably Budapest, which ultimately he wasn't able to win, but his pass on Lewis clearly defined him as one of the most attacking drivers. It was a world-class pass.
“He's also suffered more reliability problems than Lewis has, so it would be difficult to say he doesn't deserve the championship, but equally Lewis has driven some extremely strong races and he's the real deal. Either of these guys for me are truly worthy of this world championship, so either way we'll have a deserving champion.
“You have to say Lewis has the upper hand, so I guess a consolation might be if Felipe wins the grand prix, satisfies the Brazilian crowd, and Lewis comes in with a points-scoring position. As we know, though, anything can happen, so I am as excited to know the outcome as everyone else.”
Someone else who may be making his farewell appearance at Interlagos is Rubens Barrichello, the most experienced driver in F1 history but a man still unclear about his future given Honda's repeated refusal to comment on its 2009 line-up.