Abu Dhabi grand finale set to host F1 title fight fisticuffs
Consistent and clever, or fiery and aggressive? Who’s the worthy champion?
WHICH Mercedes driver will will the Formula One world title in Abu Dhabi this Sunday: quicker qualifier Nico Rosberg or more aggressive racer Lewis Hamilton?
The odds are with Hamilton thanks to his 17-point lead, and in any other season where there were 25 points on offer for a win, such a margin would allow him to breathe fairly easily. However, the unprecedented double points up for grabs in Sunday’s season finale at the Yas Marina circuit puts a different spin on things, and Rosberg could become champion if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes lower than second.
The duo have almost completely dominated the season in their Mercedes, winning 15 of the 18 races held thus far, and wrapped up the Constructors’ championship for Mercedes in Russia last month with three races to go.
Hamilton has stood on the podium in all 15 races he’s finished, a season sullied only by his three retirements in Australia, Canada and Belgium.
Rosberg has a similar success rate of 15 podium finishes but only two non-finishes, in Britain and Singapore. His sole non-podium when he finished a race was in Hungary where he crossed the line fourth, when Hamilton controversially disobeyed team-orders to let his faster teammate past.
That incident set off an intense intra-team rivalry that allowed Red Bull to take advantage and have a sniff at the title.
In the Belgian Grand Prix that followed Hungary, Rosberg caused a crash that put Hamilton out of the race and allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to take his second victory in a row. As the rivalry reached boiling point it evoked memories of the infamously fiery Prost-Senna relationship at dominant Mclaren in the late 1980s. Matters in the Mercedes camp have calmed down since then but after being chastised by his team boss Toto Wolff for his role in the Belgian incident, followed by a mechanical retirement in Singapore, Rosberg seemed to go off the boil while Hamilton stepped up a gear to win five consecutive races.
Rosberg has five wins this season compared to the ten of his British team-mate. However, the momentum is with the German driver after he won the Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago to end Hamilton’s five-victory spell. Rosberg has also out-qualified his team-mate 11 times to seven this season.
That said, and even with the double-points on offer, the odds are heavily in Hamilton’s favour. He would win his second title, after becoming champion in 2008 with McLaren, if he finishes first or second in Abu Dhabi. He will also be champion if he finishes third, fourth or fifth if Rosberg fails to win.
One person who knows about winning a title from behind is outgoing four-times champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull. The German found himself 15 points behind Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and seven points adrift of his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber ahead of the 2010 season-ender. He won the final race in Abu Dhabi and, with Alonso finishing seventh and Webber eighth, secured his maiden F1 title.
“That was a similarly difficult situation, same as Nico finds himself in,” he told Germany’s Auto Bild. “I knew that my only chance was to win the race so I just tried to concentrate fully on it.”
Vettel feels both drivers would be worthy world champions.
“Lewis has won more races than Nico, but Nico drove very consistent and clever,” he said.
Nico Rosberg (left) trails Lewis Hamilton by 17 points, but still has a shot of winning the Drivers’ Championship.