MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton stands on the brink of his fifth Formula One championship but that does not mean he will be playing it safe when the start lights go out at Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver will line up third, behind the two Red Bulls of pole-sitter Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and with Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel alongside on the second row.
Vettel’s only hope of delaying the seemingly inevitable is to win while Hamilton need only score five points — a seventh place finish.
“Everyone’s going to be barrelling into Turn One to gain, so it’s a very, very fine line,” the Briton told reporters after qualifying. “If you go easy, you can get hit. If you go too aggressive, you can hit or still get hit.
“You’ve got to race it like normal and go in for the win. That’s what I’m going to be doing. I mean, that’s what we’re here to do, is to race.”
Hamilton also lined up third in Mexico last year with a fourth title his for the taking.
That turned into something of a sweat, with the Mercedes driver and Vettel making contact at the start, pitting and dropping to the back of the field.
Hamilton then fought back to ninth place — a result that, even though he was lapped by race winner Verstappen, was still enough to secure the championship.
“If I get a good tow from these guys and there’s an opportunity to overtake I’m going to take it. If there’s not, then I’m going to try and hold position,” he said.
“I’ve been racing a long long time so it’s very rare that I make rash decisions and silly decisions when it comes to those scenarios.
“These guys (the Red Bulls) are going to be quick tomorrow so gaining position would be hopeful but also I don’t mind those guys being where they are because that takes points away from both me and Sebastian, so that’s okay.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Greg Stutchbury