Spectacular showdown set for F1 finale

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg steers his car during the qualifying session as part of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Nov 26, 2016.
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg steers his car during the qualifying session as part of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on Nov 26, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

ABU DHABI • The scene is set today for one of the tightest races to win the Formula One drivers' championship, with Lewis Hamilton in pole position to chase down the leader, his Mercedes GP teammate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton, a three-time F1 champion (2008, 2014 and 2015), trails Rosberg by 12 points in the drivers' standings, and realistically needs to win today's season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in order to overtake the German.

He clocked the fastest time of 1min 38.755sec in yesterday's qualifying session to earn the right to start today's race at the front of the starting grid. But Rosberg is placed second, just behind Hamilton, and he needs only to finish in third place to be assured of his first title, regardless of other results.

It is set to be an enthralling race to finish what has been a duel between the two drivers throughout the season. Both drivers have won nine races this F1 season, which started in March, with Rosberg the faster driver out of the blocks with four straight victories. But Hamilton roared back to win six of the next seven races to take the lead in the drivers' standings.

Engine failures troubled the British driver throughout the season, and the more consistent Rosberg was able to retake the lead in August's Belgium Grand Prix and hang on to it even as Hamilton chipped away at his deficit.

Hamilton has said that he is facing "pretty impossible odds" to overtake Rosberg in the standings in the final race, but the German insists that he will not be complacent while racing against his more illustrious teammate.

"I am not ecstatic about today's qualifying race. Lewis was just that bit quicker, but there are still opportunities tomorrow," he said yesterday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 27, 2016, with the headline 'Spectacular showdown set for F1 finale'. Print Edition | Subscribe