ABU DHABI • Lewis Hamilton has made it clear that he has no intention of trying to "back up" his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg if he is leading this weekend's title showdown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Prior to yesterday's press conference, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner had suggested that Hamilton could win the championship if the Briton were to bring the Red Bull drivers into play.
"We could be Lewis Hamilton's best friend on Sunday afternoon if we manage to get both of our cars (Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo) ahead of Nico. They are going to be focused on their own battle," the 43-year-old said.
"There's no point in Lewis being ahead by half a lap - 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."
However, the defending three-time world champion who is seeking a fourth consecutive grand prix victory to keep alive his slim hope of overhauling Rosberg's 12-point lead, said instead that he will try to win the race by as big a margin as possible.
"Nico has been on pole here for the last two years," Hamilton told reporters at the conference at the Yas Marina circuit yesterday.
"Here, he has been very quick. This has been a relatively strong circuit for me, but I've not been delivering the last two years, so my sole goal is to do so.
"In terms of tactics in the race, that has to come on Sunday, but that (backing up) has never been in my thought process. If I am ahead, I want to be as far ahead as possible."
Hamilton can only win the title if he wins the race and his rival does not finish on the podium - while Rosberg will claim his maiden title if he finishes in the top three.
The German reiterated his recent and successful mantra that he is treating this race - the first in which he has started as the championship favourite - like any other. "I am just fully focused on winning this race and that is all," he said.
On his rivalry with Hamilton, Rosberg added: "We still have the base respect that we had back in those early days. I have a lot of respect for Lewis inside and outside the car."
Sunday's race will also be former world champion Jenson Button's last, after he announced his retirement from racing yesterday.
The 36-year-old Briton, who has raced in more than 300 grands prix and won the 2009 World Championship with Brawn, had previously confirmed that he will take up an ambassadorial role with his current team McLaren next year.
"I go into this weekend thinking it's my last race," he said. "At this moment in time, I don't want to be racing in F1 beyond this race."
McLaren had announced that highly rated reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne will replace Button as Fernando Alonso's partner next season.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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