Ri­vals Hamilton and Ros­berg in the mood for showdown

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

For­mula One ri­vals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Ros­berg can’t even shake hands.

The Mercedes pair showed their com­pet­i­tive spirit yes­ter­day by ig­nor­ing a re­quest from pho­tog­ra­phers to “stand up and shake hands” be­fore their pre­race news con­fer­ence ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

In­stead, both sank their hands into their pock­ets be­fore sit­ting down to an­swer ques­tions.

With Hamilton’s ti­tle on the line — and Ros­berg’s first beck­on­ing — nei­ther wants to give any ground head­ing into Sun­day’s race.

Ros­berg has a 12-point lead and is favoured to clinch the ti­tle, need­ing only a third-place fin­ish if Hamilton wins.

“That’s not go­ing to make me go faster, to have such thoughts about some­thing that might or might not hap­pen,” said Ros­berg, run­ner-up to Hamilton for the past two sea­sons. “This is the third time the cham­pi­onship has gone to the wire. So I’m more re­laxed.”

Asked how he will ap­proach the de­cider, Ros­berg wasn’t shy.

“I’m go­ing to go for the race and win and do what it takes to get that,” he said, adding “within the lim­its of what’s ac­cept­able.”

Mutual re­spect be­tween the driv­ers re­mains, how­ever, stem­ming from their days as teenagers rac­ing karts against each other.

“The thing we still have from back then is the base re­spect and that will never go. That has helped us through the years,” Ros­berg said. “It’s gen­er­ally (a) neu­tral (re­la­tion­ship now), but of course it’s a dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ment.”

How­ever, three years of chal­leng­ing each other for the ti­tle against has largely eroded the care­free re­la­tion­ship they used to have.

“We had a lot in com­mon. We both liked pizza and eat­ing boxes of Kel­log’s Frosties (ce­real),” Hamilton said yes­ter­day. “Step­ping away from be­ing our com­pet­i­tive selves, I’m proud of how he’s driven, par­tic­u­larly this year. Gen­er­ally, it’s been a plea­sure to have him as a team­mate.

Even if Hamilton wins his 10th race of the sea­son on Sun­day, it may not be enough to bring a fourth F1 ti­tle that would draw him level with French great Alain Prost and Ger­man driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

“(When I was) 43 points be­hind, I thought it was im­pos­si­ble,” Hamilton said. “Some­how I turned it round. (Then) I was 33 points be­hind and have al­most turned it around.”

Hamilton’s sea­son has been hit by me­chan­i­cal is­sues and en­gine fail­ure — un­think­able dur­ing pre-sea­son test­ing when both Mercedes were hugely re­li­able.

That still seems to grate with him.

“When I look back on the sea­son if there’s any­thing to be neg­a­tive about would be cars fail­ing in cer­tain places,” Hamilton said. “(With the same en­gine) as the car that wouldn’t stop dur­ing test­ing.”

Prior to the start of the sea­son, Mercedes swapped sev­eral me­chan­ics around from each side of the garage. Some of Ros­berg’s went to work with Hamilton and vice-versa, in a bid to end the di­vide that had been grow­ing over the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons.

The is­sue of the me­chan­ics swap was put to Ros­berg at yes­ter­day’s news con­fer­ence, but be­fore he could an­swer, Hamilton in­ter­jected: “What was the ex­pla­na­tion given to you?”

Hamilton then pledged to re­veal more in the future.

“You’ll have to buy my book ... down the line ... in 10 years’ time when I tell you ex­actly what happened,” the Bri­tish driver said. “It will be an in­ter­est­ing read.”

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Bri­tain (right) and his team­mate Nico Ros­berg of Ger­many pose for a pic­ture prior to a news con­fer­ence Photo: AP

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