De­ci­sive day looms for Hamil­ton and Ros­berg

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Lewis Hamil­ton feels he faces “pretty im­pos­si­ble odds” go­ing into For­mula One’s Abu Dhabi ti­tle-de­cider while Mercedes team mate and ri­val Nico Ros­berg says he will treat Sun­day’s race like any other. Both are be­ing disin­gen­u­ous, of course. Hamil­ton knows he still has a real chance and Ros­berg is well aware just how much is at stake.

While Ros­berg is the favourite to win the ‘Duel in the Desert’, need­ing only to fin­ish on the Yas Ma­rina podium to be­come Ger­many’s third world cham­pion af­ter Michael Schu­macher and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, he will still be on ten­ter­hooks. “I will give it ev­ery­thing to end the sea­son with a win,” said Ros­berg, the son of Fin­land’s 1982 cham­pion Keke, even if cyn­ics sus­pect he would be happy enough to set­tle for a fourth suc­ces­sive se­cond place.

“I’ve had a great week, re­lax­ing and catch­ing up with my fam­ily and friends, so I feel like I’m in a good place. “In Brazil ... I was jok­ing that I would still be tak­ing things one race at a time. But, the more I think about it, the more that’s ac­tu­ally not as crazy as it sounds. I have to treat this like any other race.”

That has be­come Ros­berg’s mantra, his in­creas­ingly-im­plau­si­ble mech­a­nism for deal­ing with the pres­sure as the ti­tle talk grows louder. That stress will be greater than ever on Sun­day, a life­time’s am­bi­tion within reach af­ter years of be­ing beaten by Hamil­ton.

How he han­dles it in the day-to-night race could be cru­cial.

‘IM­POS­SI­BLE ODDS’

Hamil­ton, who started the year tipped to be­come Bri­tain’s first four times world cham­pion but goes into the sea­son-en­der 12 points adrift, has less pres­sure.

He must fin­ish in the top three to have any hope but, in his mind, has noth­ing to lose and ev­ery­thing to gain. “I’m faced with pretty im­pos­si­ble odds no mat­ter what I do this week­end. But I can’t and won’t give up. You never know what might hap­pen, how­ever un­likely it may seem,” said the reign­ing cham­pion. In fact four of Hamil­ton’s nine wins this sea­son (Monaco, Canada, Aus­tria and Ger­many) came with Ros­berg off the podi­uma re­sult that if re­peated for a fifth time in 21 races on Sun­day would hand him the ti­tle.

Not quite the im­pos­si­ble odds he sug­gested. Hamil­ton, who has won the last three races and could end the year with more wins than Ros­berg (nine each at present), knows only too well that a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure or first cor­ner col­li­sion can change ev­ery­thing in an in­stant. At Abu Dhabi in 2014, Hamil­ton won both race and ti­tle while Ros­berg started on pole but had a power unit prob­lem and fin­ished out of the points.

There is also the prospect of ri­vals-and par­tic­u­larly the Red Bull pair­ing of Daniel Ric­cia­rdo and Max Ver­stap­pen-get­ting in among the ti­tle con­tenders.

Ver­stap­pen in par­tic­u­lar showed in Brazil, with a su­perla­tive drive through the field to third in the clos­ing laps and wet con­di­tions, that he is no re­specter of rep­u­ta­tions, nor is he afraid to get stuck in.

Fur­ther back, Wil­liams’s Brazil­ian Felipe Massa will be bow­ing out af­ter his 250th race start in what also looks likely to be a farewell for 2009 world champ Jen­son But­ton at McLaren. “It’s go­ing to be an­other emo­tional one,” said for­mer Fer­rari driver Massa.

“I re­ally hope the fi­nal, and 250th race of my For­mula One ca­reer, can be a fan­tas­tic one. We will of course have a big party. Hope­fully we can cel­e­brate with a great re­sult.” — Reuters

Lewis Hamil­ton

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