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The Circuit

Hamilton v Massa: Where the title will be won

  • Story Highlights
  • Hamilton leads Massa going into the final three rounds of the 2008 F1 season
  • Wet-weather expert Hamilton is favorite should it rain in Japan, China or Brazil
  • Massa always goes well at his home track of Interlagos in Sao Paulo
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Neale Graham
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Fifteen bruising rounds down, three to go in the topsy-turvy Formula One world championship of 2008 -- with two drivers slugging it out for the crown.

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his 2007 Chinese Grand Prix nightmare.

In one corner, there is McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. He had a two-point lead going into the last three races of 2007, extending it to 12 with a win in Japan, before losing the title at the last race in Brazil.

In the other, seven points behind his rival in the standings, is Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian has performed well above expectations this year, out-driving his world champion team-mate, Kimi Raikkonen.

The rival pair's machinery is equally matched, with perhaps the Ferrari slightly the quicker car in the dry. But the Italian squad have had engine reliability issues this year, while McLaren's reliability has been virtually bulletproof.

Coming from behind, Massa has it all to do, whereas Hamilton can play the percentages. It is not his style, but he lost the 2007 title by throwing caution to the wind and both drivers and their teams have made plenty of mistakes this season.

It should be punch and counterpunch between the leading duo until the final bell sounds in Brazil, with the weather set to throw a spanner in the works too.

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Here, The Circuit looks at where the title might be won and lost for the two contenders.

Japanese Grand Prix, Fuji, October 12

A year ago, victory at a sodden Fuji Speedway seemingly moved Hamilton to the brink of the world title in his remarkable debut season. He did not put a wheel wrong in conditions that were close to undriveable and his subsequent wet-weather performances give him a decisive edge when the heavens are open.

Should it rain again, and the presence of Mount Fuji makes this likely, Hamilton is a strong favorite. Massa's Ferrari is unhappy in the wet and he does not share his rival's confidence in changeable conditions.

Verdict: Another Hamilton masterclass in the wet, Massa closer in the dry but the McLaren man to shade it regardless.

Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, October 19

With a typhoon nearby, rain lashed down at the start of last season's Chinese Grand Prix and Hamilton duly hared off into the distance. But as the track dried, he stayed out too long on worn tires and on entering the pitlane, a lack of grip sent him into the gravel trap and retirement.

It was the turning point of his failed title bid. Massa, meanwhile, drove an anonymous race to finish third -- but by that stage he was already playing wingman to Raikkonen's title tilt. Expect a more fiery display from the Brazilian this year.

Verdict: The Ferrari of Massa should have the edge in Shanghai in the dry, but again if it is wet expect Hamilton to shine.

Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, November 2

Interlagos is very much a Massa track. He has started on pole at the last two Brazilian Grands Prix, going on to win in 2006 and he was dominant again last year before all but donating the win to Raikkonen.


Hamilton's one visit to Brazil will bring back painful memories of a botched start, an ill-judged passing move on the first lap and then a gearbox problem that dropped him to the back of the field. Seventh place at the flag was not enough to deny Raikkonen the title. Still, the Englishman is sure to be quick.

Verdict: Massa is mighty around his home circuit and driven on by fervent support he should prevail. But it has been known to rain in Sao Paulo...

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