‘Eight-time champion’ Hamilton granted Brazilian citizenship; French star at risk of race ban: F1 Pit Talk

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Lewis Hamilton has a long and deep history with Brazil. Now it’s been formalised with citizenship.

The Briton has long identified Ayrton Senna as his racing hero and driving force, and it was a dream come true to win his first championship in Sao Paulo in 2008.

In that race he was the villain, defeating home hero Felipe Massa, but his passion was undimmed, and it’s a testament to his affinity for the country that he’s since won over the enthusiastic local crowd to the point that he’s now welcomed back to the circuit as a local favourite.

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And this year he can actually say he’s a local too, having received his citizenship papers this week.

Indeed he’s so well regarded in Brazil that the national congress has been tempted to recognise him as having an extra championship. Just don’t tell Red Bull Racing.

Whether that boost in support can power him to a fourth victory in Sao Paulo is another question entirely.

While Mercedes targets the track as a possible opportunity to snipe for a victory, Pierre Gasly will just be hoping to keep a clean sheet given how perilously close he is to picking up a race ban after his latest driving infringement in Mexico.

And Max Verstappen will be back on the television, with Red Bull Racing set to end the feud with Sky Sports after allegations of biased coverage.

‘EIGHT-TIME CHAMPION’ HAMILTON MADE AN HONORARY BRAZILIAN

Lewis Hamilton has been granted his honorary Brazilian citizenship in a special sitting of the country’s lower house on Monday.

Hamilton was made a citizen earlier in the year after winning the Brazilian Grand Prix for a third time 2021 after an epic two-day comeback from the back of the grid.

Hamilton had been excluded from qualifying for using a broken rear wing and started the Saturday sprint from last. He overtook 14 cars and finished fourth but then served a five-place penalty for an engine change, putting him 10th on the grid for the grand prix.

His race-day recovery put him in a fraught duel with Max Verstappen, with the Dutchman controversially running him off the track in a desperate defensive move, but Hamilton eventually swept past to record a dominant 10-second victory.

He stopped on the cool-down lap to collect a Brazilian flag, which he unfurled as he drove back to pit lane and held aloft on the podium in scenes reminiscent of the home victories of his idol, Ayrton Senna.

Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFPSource: AFP

It was the first of Hamilton’s three wins in a row to put him level on points with Verstappen for the final race of the year.

In a ceremony convened to formally grant him his citizenship, Hamilton was praised for having a “Brazilian heart” and affinity with the Brazilian people and also for his social and environmental activism.

“It is honestly the greatest honour for me to be here receiving and accepting this citizenship,” he told the rapturous chamber. “I really do feel like now I’m one of you finally, so thank you.

“Knowing you guys were cheering me on the way [in 2021], it was one of the most special moments of my entire life.”

Hamilton dedicated the honour to Senna, who he said inspired him to become a grand prix driver.

“When I was five years old I saw Ayrton race for the first time, and that was the moment I knew that I wanted to be a world champion just like him,” he said.

The session was otherwise notable for chamber president Arthur Lira identifying Hamilton as an eight-time world champion in a reference to the controversial conclusion to last year’s campaign.

It’s unclear whether Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing will boycott the nation of Brazil in response.

GASLY RISKS RACE BAN BEFORE ALPINE SWITCH

Pierre Gasly is perilously close to being suspended after reaching 10 penalty points at the Mexico City Grand Prix.

An F1 driver can collect a maximum of 11 points in a 12-month period without repercussion, but a 12th point will result in an automatic one-race ban.

Gasly was given his 10th point along with a five-second penalty for passing Lance Stroll off track for 15th place.

Just one week earlier in Austin he was handed two points for driving too slowly behind the safety car.

Points expire one year after they were collected, but Gasly isn’t due to lose any more points until next May, seven rounds into the new season and nine races from now.

The Frenchman was furious in Mexico to learn that he’d picked up extra points, particularly given the drivers had discussed the penalty system with the race director on Friday of that weekend.

“[The stewards] seem to be quite harsh lately,” he said, per Autosport. “I don‘t feel like I’ve been that dangerous over the last 12 months, and it would be a shame to get a race ban for slowing down a bit too much behind the safety car and a couple of track limits this year.”

The penalty system was introduced after Romain Grosjean triggered several crashes in 2012 and 2013, for which he was branded a “first-lap nutcase” by Mark Webber.

He was banned from a race in 2012, and the penalty points system was introduced in 2014 to create a formalised process to punish reckless driving.

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But penalty points are increasingly dished out for minor racing offences or even just for exceeding track limits. While Gasly is a robust and aggressive driver, it would be difficult to argue that he’s dangerous or reckless.

More than half the grid has four or more points. Only Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz have clean sheets.

Given the AlphaTauri driver has racked up 10 points in just 15 races, the odds would seem stacked against him to avoid a ban before next May.

Collecting his 12th penalty point in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would see him miss his debut race for Alpine next season.

SKY SPORTS BOYCOTT TO END AFTER VERSTAPPEN SPAT

Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing will end their Sky Sports boycott this weekend following their media strike in Mexico.

Last round Verstappen and his team snubbed interviews with all Sky Group broadcasters — Sky Sports UK, Sky Sport Italia and Sky Sport Deutschland — following “disrespectful” remarks by pundit Ted Kravitz at the preceding race in the United States.

Kravitz had said that Hamilton had been “robbed” of an eighth championship, albeit in the context of the United States Grand Prix playing out as a movie script.

But Red Bull Racing said this was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, having complained to Sky Sports UK several times about what it perceived to be Hamilton bias.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“It‘s been a constant kind of digging, being disrespectful, especially one particular person,“ Verstappen said in Mexico. ”And at one point it is enough, I don’t accept it.

“You keep disrespecting me and at one point I‘m not tolerating it anymore. So that’s why I decided to stop answering.”

Sky Sports UK is the de facto worldwide broadcaster, being retransmitted to Australia, Canada, the United States and Ireland and used widely by F1 itself for highlights and other online content. Sky Sports and its sister Italian and German stations were able to take interviews conducted by F1 staff instead.

ESPN has reported that Sky Sports F1 chief Billy McGinty travelled to Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes base earlier this week to clear the air and that the team has confirmed that it will stick by its original plan to resume interviews with the Sky Group broadcasters this weekend in Brazil.

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