Abu Dhabi grand fi­nale set to host F1 ti­tle fight fisticuffs

Con­sis­tent and clever, or fiery and ag­gres­sive? Who’s the wor­thy cham­pion?

The Star Early Edition - - FORMULA ONE - DE­NIS DROPPA

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.

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