Ros­berg set to de­liver Hamil­ton knock­out blow

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

NICO ROS­BERG may not want to talk about it, but he is poised to join an il­lus­tri­ous club if he can com­plete a hat­trick at the Brazil­ian Grand Prix and se­cure his maiden world cham­pi­onship.

The 31-year-old Ger­man has a 19-point lead ahead of his Mercedes team­mate and de­fend­ing cham­pion Lewis Hamil­ton in the ti­tle race with two races re­main­ing.

Vic­tory in what is sure to be one of the most dra­matic and tense races of the year will lift him be­yond the reach of the three-time cham­pion and end his dogged pur­suit of the glory he prefers not to men­tion.

He won in Brazil in both 2014 and 2015, but missed out on the cham­pi­onship each time as Hamil­ton claimed the ti­tles.

Vic­tory this time would gain him en­try to the sport’s “hall of cham­pi­ons” in which he would em­u­late the feat of his fa­ther Keke, the orig­i­nal ‘ Fly­ing Finn’, who won the ti­tle in 1982.

Hamil­ton, who clinched his first ti­tle by tak­ing fifth place in a nail­bit­ing fi­nal lap at the 4.3km Au­to­dromo Jose Car­los Pace in 2008, knows that he has to win – and then hope that Ros­berg has an off day and misses out on a podium fin­ish.

That would en­sure the ti­tle race con­tin­ues down to the wire at the fi­nal race in Abu Dhabi at the end of this month.

But the English­man, who has ex­pe­ri­enced a des­per­ate tri­umph and dra­matic de­feat at the at­mo­spheric track cut in to a hill­side in the sprawl­ing In­ter­la­gos sub­urb of Sao Paulo, has won the last two races and is driv­ing with a free­dom that comes from a sense of res­ig­na­tion.

Hamil­ton, who has never won in Brazil, knows that he has to be at his best only to keep his hopes alive – and then wait and see how Ros­berg per­forms.

“It’s great for me to be per­form­ing as I know I can per­form,” he said, after his 51st ca­reer win at the Mex­i­can Grand Prix on Oc­to­ber 30.

“But I am fight­ing for some­thing now and I don’t re­ally know if I’ll be able to make it.

“It’s def­i­nitely an un­usual sce­nario for me to be in so I’ve just got to push all the way to the end. One way, it can be painful. An­other way, it can be a great thing.”

Since 2004, the cham­pi­onship has been de­cided in Brazil six times, but only once has the race win­ner been cham­pion – when Kimi Raikko­nen took the ti­tle with a late­sea­son surge to beat Hamil­ton in 2007.

In that sea­son, Raikko­nen turned a 17-point deficit into a ti­tle tri­umph in the fi­nal two wins.

“It won’t be as painful again as that was,” said Hamil­ton, when asked to re­flect on his ti­tle show­downs. “I’ve lost many races and cham­pi­onships in my ca­reer so it’s not like I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced it.

“Right now, I know I’m in a sce­nario where I know there is more of a chance I will lose it than win it. That’s hard to swal­low.”

The Mercedes team have made clear that the two ti­tle chal­lengers will have equal sup­port, ma­chin­ery and power.

“As usual, we will do our very best to treat this as a nor­mal race,” said tech­ni­cal chief Paddy Lowe.

“We will be ap­proach­ing the week­end with the high­est lev­els of dis­ci­pline and an over­rid­ing ob­jec­tive to en­sure we pro­vide both driv­ers with the best equip­ment for a fair com­pe­ti­tion.”

If Ros­berg wins on Sun­day, he will boost the num­ber of cham­pi­ons on the grid this year from five to six for the fi­nal race in Abu Dhabi on Nov 27.

The race will mark the 13th and fi­nal home event for pop­u­lar Brazil­ian Felipe Massa, win­ner of the 2008 cham­pion when Hamil­ton took the ti­tle from him with his last lap surge. – AFP

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