Although he clinched his fourth drivers’ championship 2 weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton’s tax evasion controversies surfaced. He will be the focus of attention this weekend when he heads Mercedes’ bid to consolidate their title-winning supremacy at the Brazilian Grand Prix. The 32-year-old Briton has denied allegations of tax avoidance following the release of the so-called Paradise Papers, but remains engulfed in the controversy.
His behaviour, body language and form will be closely scrutinised. Hamilton reportedly got a £3.3 million VAT refund in 2013. His luxury private plane was imported into the Isle of Man. Hamilton’s lawyers have said the tax structure leading to the VAT refund was entirely legal.
Hamilton won’t allow the furore in England upset his preparations. His childhood hero Ayrton Senna’s sister Vivianne told him on Wednesday that the Senna family will always support him.
For his Mercedes team, it will be strictly business as usual in Brazil. They will use the final two races of the season to prepare the defence of their crowns in 2018. Lewis Hamilton’s tax evasion controversy, however, may attract unexpected and unwanted negativity. The team attempts to regain the ascendancy and take the initiative.
Will Lewis Hamilton’s tax evasion allegations distract him this weekend?
Lewis Hamilton’s tax evasion saga will not distract him from his job this weekend. He said “I’ve come from this great period of time with my family and friends that have this huge wave of positivity. Nothing can really dent that. I am focused on the race this weekend and we have two races to go. That doesn’t distract me from my core values and what I am here to do.”
His Mercedes team said they plan to be “bolder” and to experiment with new parts and ideas. Team boss Toto Wolff said “Inside the team, we are looking at the next two race weekends as the first two Grands Prix of 2018. We have two races that we are determined to win in order to take that positive momentum into the winter. Every time we race, we race to win. That is the mind-set”. This is expected to mean that Mercedes will test new aerodynamic parts, pit-stop equipment and different techniques.
A look towards 2018
Both Ferrari and Red Bull are likely to launch equally bold bids for improved performance next season. notably with both Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen desperate to win again. Four-time champion Vettel has seen his title challenge fail despite the clear speed of his Ferrari. Verstappen is keen to build on the momentum of his successes after signing a new contract with Red Bull.
It may be that they are racing for the runners-up prizes in the championships, but that and the competition for other places is sure to create some spectacular action. Verstappen revelled in the challenge in the wet last year and gained 10 positions in a daring drive to finish third and secure a podium finish at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace where Hamilton gained his first title with a passing move for McLaren at the final corner in 2008. The race will be the last one on home soil for local hero Felipe Massa, before he retires, this time finally, and leaves an empty seat at Williams in 2018.