F1 bat­tle to fi­nally be set­tled

Mercedes’ big­gest worry is me­chan­i­cal fail­ure as Hamil­ton, Ros­berg square off

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS

LEWIS Hamil­ton could be only days away from his sec­ond For­mula One world ti­tle but the Mercedes driver is wary of dou­ble trou­ble in Abu Dhabi on Sun­day.

The Bri­ton leads Ger­man team­mate Nico Ros­berg by 17 points go­ing into Sun­day’s sea­son-end­ing “Duel in the Desert”, which means he does not have to win the race to take the crown even with an un­prece­dented dou­ble points on of­fer.

Sec­ond place at Yas Ma­rina would do, even if Ros­berg were to tri­umph, but the scor­ing po­ten­tial and shadow of a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure or race in­ci­dent still cast a heavy shadow.

“There is zero com­fort go­ing into the next race be­cause it’s 50 points to gain,” said Hamil­ton, who took his 2008 ti­tle with a last gasp over­take when all seemed lost.

“In the last race you never know what is go­ing to hap­pen, so I’m go­ing to the last race to win.”

Sun­day’s dou­ble points could be a one-off, with even com­mer­cial supremo Bernie Ec­cle­stone now against con­tin­u­ing the idea he pushed through, but in other re­spects it should be more of the same.

Mercedes have al­ready se­cured both ti­tles and fin­ished one-two a record 11 times this sea­son, and are now chas­ing a record 16th win of the 19-race cam­paign.

The night­mare for the team, and par­tic­u­larly Hamil­ton who has won 10 races to Ros­berg’s five, is me­chan­i­cal fail­ure.

To many fans, it would turn the cham­pi­onship into a trav­esty if he loses out that way.

“Clearly Lewis break­ing down would have a mas­sive im­pact on his cham­pi­onship at­tempt. And it would, for me per­son­ally, be a night­mare,” said Mercedes mo­tor­sport head Toto Wolff. “We need to pro­vide him with the most re­li­able car and we want the cham­pi­onship to end in a straight and fair bat­tle and not by one of them break­ing down.”

While the fo­cus is on the ti­tle scrap be­tween the two Mercedes ri­vals, whose re­la­tion­ship has been un­der the mi­cro­scope all year, other bat­tles will be fought be­hind them in what amounts to a last roll of the dice for some.

Red Bull are sure of sec­ond place while Wil­liams look set to fin­ish ahead of Fer­rari for the first time since they took their last ti­tle in 1997.

For Fer­rari, the sport’s most suc­cess­ful and glam­orous team, it is the last chance to stave off their first win­less sea­son since 1993.

Sauber are also star­ing at their first sea­son with­out a sin­gle point while Cater­ham, in ad­min­is­tra­tion and with a skele­ton crew, are hop­ing to do enough to con­vince a buyer to res­cue them.

The race will be quadru­ple cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel’s farewell to Red Bull and could also be the fi­nal ap­pear­ance in For­mula One of 2009 world cham­pion Jen­son But­ton, Hamil­ton’s for­mer McLaren team­mate.

McLaren, who end a long re­la­tion­ship with Mercedes and start a new part­ner­ship with Honda after Abu Dhabi, are ex­pected to sign Fer­nando Alonso from Fer­rari and have yet to de­cide whether to keep But­ton or Dan­ish rookie Kevin Mag­nussen.

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