Formula One: Lewis Hamilton charging but odds are on Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg will beat Lewis Hamilton to win his first drivers' title as long as he finishes second and third in the remaining races.
Nico Rosberg will beat Lewis Hamilton to win his first drivers' title as long as he finishes second and third in the remaining races.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Third straight Brazil win by Rosberg will seal maiden F1 crown, with reliability key for both

SAO PAULO • Win in Brazil on Sunday, win the Formula One drivers' title: Nico Rosberg's task sounds simple enough but is a lot harder to achieve.

The German is one step away from securing his first championship, which he will do if he wins at Interlagos regardless of where Mercedes team-mate, three-time champion and title rival Lewis Hamilton finishes. He can also seal the drivers' title by scoring seven points more than the Briton, giving him an unassailable 26-point lead.

The odds are in Rosberg's favour - he has won for the past two seasons from pole position in Sao Paulo whereas the anti-clockwise circuit has yet to reward Hamilton with a victory.

And yet the pressure of being within touching distance of a lifelong dream can play on the mind, and increase the pressure, while the fickle Sao Paulo weather can wreak havoc with the best-laid plans.

Last year, Hamilton had already won the title and his focus was elsewhere. This time he comes on the back of two successive wins and, like Rosberg, seeking a hat-trick.

  • Title equation

  • ROSBERG'S CROWN

    •Nico Rosberg will claim the world title by winning Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is on 330 points, 19 behind him. With 25 points for finishing first and 18 for second, he will have at least an unassailable 26-point lead.

    •If Hamilton wins both the last two races with Rosberg second, the German will take the title by five points and he can even afford to finish third in one of them.

    HAMILTON'S TITLE

    •If he wins in Brazil and in Abu Dhabi and Rosberg earns less than 32 points.

    •If Rosberg fails to finish both races, Hamilton needs only to finish fifth in each of the final two races.

    •If Rosberg picks up a point in each of the final two races, Hamilton must finish at least fourth and fifth - or pick up 22 points.

    THE TIMES, LONDON

Another win would take the battle down to the wire at Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina and - if Rosberg were to fail to score in Brazil - a potential "winner takes all" scenario.

"I'll wait until the end of the year," said Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone when asked whether he felt the German looked a "fairly safe bet".

Rosberg will not be changing his "one race at a time" approach.

"There are still two races to go and anything can happen in this sport, so I need to focus my energy on the factors that I have in my control," the 31-year-old said.

Hamilton is in unfamiliar territory, with the title outcome out of his hands even if he wins in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but needs no reminding that it is not over until it is really over. Reliability, or lack of it, can swing the momentum either way and Mercedes will be doing all they can to ensure both drivers have no mechanical issues.

The memory of Hamilton's first championship with McLaren in 2008, secured in Brazil with an overtake on the last corner of the last lap just when it seemed local favourite Felipe Massa had clinched the drivers' title, is always there.

"It's an unusual scenario to be in - fighting for something and not knowing for sure that what you do will guarantee you're able to make it," said Hamilton. "One outcome would be painful and the other would be a great achievement.

"Regardless, I'm going to keep pushing... I've never won in Brazil, so I go into this weekend focused on changing that."

Away from the title battle, both Mercedes drivers will have to watch out for Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel must also watch his language, after turning the air blue in Mexico with his radio rants.

Massa will soak up the atmosphere one last time, with Sunday being his home farewell before retirement from Williams.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Hamilton charging but odds on leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe