Brack­ley team prayer: ‘Please don’t stop’

CityPress - - Sport - MICHELLE FOS­TER sports@city­press.co.za

Come this evening, there is go­ing to be one very happy driver in the Mercedes camp, and an­other feel­ing rather dis­ap­pointed.

Mercedes head into the ti­tle-de­cid­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix know­ing that the Driv­ers’ Cham­pi­onship tro­phy will re­turn to Brack­ley for the third year run­ning.

The only ques­tion is: Will it be Nico Ros­berg or Lewis Hamil­ton?

The Ger­man holds a 12-point ad­van­tage, which means he only has to fin­ish on the podium at the Yas Marino cir­cuit to wrap up his maiden ti­tle.

As such, it is hard to con­ceive Ros­berg los­ing out, given Mercedes’ in­cred­i­ble form. The Brack­ley squad, though, is well aware that re­li­a­bil­ity has not been their strong suit.

As Niki Lauda put it, “when it comes to the last few laps and, say, Nico is sec­ond or third, he will just be pray­ing, ‘please, car, don’t stop on me’.”

Hamil­ton will be ready to cap­i­talise on any mis­for­tunes that may be­fall his team-mate as he looks to end the sea­son with a fourth win on the trot.

A P1 is his best shot at re­tain­ing the ti­tle, but even then, it is not in his hands. He will, as Chris­tian Horner ex­plained, need oth­ers – most likely the Red Bull pair­ing – to get in­volved.

“There’s no point in Lewis be­ing ahead by half a lap,” said the Red Bull team boss in the build-up to the race.

“If he’s smart, he’s go­ing to back the cars up so there is rac­ing be­hind him be­cause that’s the only way the re­sult will fall his way.”

While Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff may want the Red Bull team-mates, es­pe­cially the fear­less Max Ver­stap­pen, to stay far away from his ti­tle-fight­ing driv­ers, Hamil­ton needs the Dutch­man and Daniel Ric­cia­rdo to find Red Bull’s old form around the Yas Ma­rina cir­cuit.

Red Bull has in the past shown in­cred­i­ble pace around the 21-cor­ner track, win­ning three of the seven grands prix. But all three went to Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, who is with Fer­rari.

The Ger­man, who in 2012 raced from the pit lane to the podium, was also the first driver to win a world ti­tle in Abu Dhabi as he came from be­hind to win the ti­tle in 2010, do­ing so by win­ning the race. Hamil­ton sealed the deal in 2014, also with the race win.

To­day’s Grand Prix will mark the farewell race for Felipe Massa, who is re­tir­ing from the sport, and Jen­son But­ton, who is tak­ing a year-long sab­bat­i­cal with the slim po­ten­tial of re­turn­ing to the grid in 2018.

Both stal­warts will be keen to go out with a strong fin­ish, but it is the bat­tle at the sharp end for F1’s big­gest prize that has cap­tured the at­ten­tion in Abu Dhabi.

Ros­berg will be ea­ger to keep up the trend of wrap­ping up the ti­tle un­der the lights with a race win, but with a P3 be­ing all he re­quires, the num­bers game will be what he plays this af­ter­noon.

– TEAMtalk Me­dia

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