Ad­van­tage Ros­berg as F1 ti­tle fight re­sumes at stormy Sepang

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Rainy weather may be the only thing that can stop Mercedes from clinch­ing a third straight For­mula One con­struc­tors’ ti­tle at this week­end’s Malaysian Grand Prix, as new cham­pi­onship leader Nico Ros­berg seeks to cap­i­tal­ize on his cur­rent edge over team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton.

Mercedes has won all but one race this year — when the team­mates took each other out in a crash — and is now poised to seal the team cham­pi­onship with five races to spare. It needs to score only three points more than clos­est rival Red Bull, while pre­vent­ing Fer­rari from outscor­ing Mercedes by 22 points or more, in or­der to clinch the ti­tle.

Thun­der­storms are forecast through­out the race week­end, and the Malaysian race and qual­i­fy­ing have a his­tory of be­ing hit by heavy rain. That may give some en­cour­age­ment to Red Bull and Fer­rari that they can chal­lenge Mercedes.

A resur­fac­ing of the track will com­pli­cate mat­ters for all teams, as their data from pre­vi­ous years on tire degra­da­tion will be ob­so­lete.

Ros­berg has won the past three races to turn a 19-point deficit to Hamil­ton into an eight-point lead. The ten­sion between the team­mates is spilling over from the track.

“We are push­ing each other very hard on the race track and even off the race track,” Ros­berg said yes­ter­day. “It’s a great bat­tle and ev­ery­thing counts, in many ar­eas.”

The Ger­man has never won on the sweep­ing turns and long straights of Sepang, but that should not be con­sid­ered much of an omen, as he has recorded first-ever vic­to­ries at five other cir­cuits this sea­son.

Hamil­ton’s cam­paign has taken a turn for the worse af­ter his own hat-trick of race wins in mid-sea­son.

“I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had tough runs and I’ve had good runs, and it’s not par­tic­u­larly any dif­fer­ent to any of those,” Hamil­ton said of the lat­est re­ver­sal of for­tunes. “It’s all about how you han­dle it, how you deal with it.”

His han­dling of it was com­mend­able in the pre­vi­ous race in Sin­ga­pore as he took a fight­ing third place de­spite a week­end of tech­ni­cal set­backs.

How­ever, Hamil­ton hinted at some dis­con­tent yes­ter­day. Asked about al­ter­ations to the set-up of the car in re­cent races, he said: “If some­thing changes when it doesn’t need to be changed, it can have all sorts of ef­fects.”

“There’s other things in the back­ground which they (the team) can ap­ply more ef­fort to, but that’s in­ter­nal stuff,” he added.

Team man­age­ment was stay­ing neu­tral in the ti­tle fight between the Mercedes pair, and Hamil­ton said there had been no ef­forts to buoy his spirts fol­low­ing the re­cent cham­pi­onship turn­around.

“The team doesn’t have any­thing to say to me be­cause we’re em­bark­ing on the team cham­pi­onship, which is what they care about. Me and the (driv­ers’) world cham­pi­onship are not re­ally their pri­or­ity in a sense.”

McLaren driver Jen­son But­ton will make his 300th race start this week­end, join­ing Michael Schu­macher and Rubens Bar­richello as the only men to reach that mile­stone.

“When I started in 2000, I re­mem­ber speak­ing to my Dad, and he said, ‘How long do you think you’ll race for?’ and I said, ‘I’ll be done by the time I’m 30, and here I am at 36,’“But­ton said. “It def­i­nitely sucks you in, For­mula One, and it doesn’t let go for a long time.”

Ros­berg is cur­rently eight points above Lewis Hamil­ton

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