Lewis Hamilton has always worshipped Ayrton Senna but believes if he tried any of the Brazilian’s title-chasing antics, he would have the book thrown at him. Comparisons are being drawn between Hamilton’s championship battle with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg and the duels of Senna and his great rival Alain Prost.
Those similarities will ring even more true at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka this weekend, a track which is steeped in championship controversy from the days of Prost and Senna. In 1989, when the duo were team-mates at McLaren, and the following year, when Prost had moved to Ferrari, the pair were involved in crashes with one another which both ultimately decided the destination of the title.
Prost won the drivers’ title 25 years ago after the pair had a collision that forced his retirement from the race, with Senna later disqualified from the result. Senna’s revenge came the following year as the two title protagonists sat on the front row, with the outspoken Brazilian tagging Prost at the first corner and sending them both off in a high-speed accident that saw the McLaren man claim his second championship. Although Hamilton, who is chasing his first win at Suzuka, is a long-time admirer of Senna’s achievements the 29-year-old does not think similar antics will be at the centre of his own battle with Rosberg.
“It was epic,” he said of Senna’s feud with Prost.
“It was a cool period of time in Formula One. When I watch the replay of some of those crashes…it wasn’t black and white, in you can’t say whose fight it was.
“You’d probably be in jail if you did that now. It will never happen in Formula One nowadays because of the way we are, but I can understand and empathise why it would happen.
“You saw the last race – I came back and I attacked, and did it the right way.”
Although Hamilton has said he can relate to Senna, who was killed when he crashed at Imola whilst driving for Williams in 1994, he has not been comparing his current situation to the infamous battle of his hero.
“I’ve not really thought about it so much,” he said when asked if the two title tussles were comparable.
“I’ve always felt like I can relate or had a good connection with Ayrton. He was always my favourite driver. I’ve felt a lot of things I think he may have felt in my life. I related to him as a driver than any other driver. I think we’re just in a different time so it’s not something that crossed my mind.”
With such a small gap between the two title challengers, Hamilton is a mere three points clear of Rosberg, the Briton admits pride at being involved in such an interesting, crowd-appealing spectacle. “We need more of them, I think,” he added.
“I’m proud that I can be in a time where it is happening. To be in that mix is so cool, rather than watch it happen ahead of you, which I’ve had at many races in the past, so I don’t take it for granted. You don’t know when you’re going to be in that place again.”
Rosberg drew first blood in Friday’s practice session by beating Hamilton into second place but the tables were turned on the German when the 2008 champion topped the timesheet in the afternoon. They remain well clear of the chasing pack, with only the threat of poor weather brought on by the presence of Typhoon Phanfone or their own reliability issues likely to give anyone else the chance of standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday.
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