Lewis Hamilton leads the championship heading to the Formula One finale but Nico Rosberg carries the momentum into the decisive race in Abu Dhabi.
While Rosberg is coming off a strong victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton is dwelling on a mistake that ended his streak of five consecutive wins and kept him from increasing his advantage.
Hamilton missed a chance to win at Interlagos on Sunday after going off the track while in close pursuit of his Mercedes teammate, and saw his points lead cut to 17 ahead of the race in Abu Dhabi, where double points are on offer.
Rosberg needs to win the season-ending grand prix on Nov. 23 and hope Hamilton finishes third or worse.
“We saw he made a mistake, so anything can happen in the last race,” says Rosberg, the German trying to win his first F1 title.
“It’s good to see, I hope it has slightly dented his confidence. Mental (strength) is a big part of the sport, that’s for sure.”
Rosberg was the one who buckled under the pressure a week before at the U.S. Grand Prix, where he started from the pole but took too long to find his rhythm, and ultimately was overtaken by Hamilton.
“I progressed from Austin, managed to understand what I need to do better, and that worked out really well, so onwards and upwards in this direction,” Rosberg says.
“All I can do is relax, just as I have been doing, and go to Abu Dhabi in full attack mode as I have done at the last couple of races. It will be a good fight.”
Hamilton, seeking his second world title, says he will not drive conservatively in Abu Dhabi despite his advantage in the standings.
“I’ll be pushing just as hard,” he says. “It’s everything to play for in the last race. I’m looking forward to it.”
Needing just a second place, Hamilton is in a good position considering how dominant Mercedes has been this season. The team has finished 1-2 a record 11 times, and Hamilton was out of the top two only four times in 18 races.
The odds are in his favor.
“There is zero comfort going into the next race,” Hamilton says. “There are 50 points to gain — that has never happened in Formula One before, and it just so happens to be this season. In the last race, you never know what is going to happen, so I’m going into it to win.”
If it weren’t for the new double-points format, Hamilton would need only a sixth-place finish to clinch the title. The drivers could tie on points but Hamilton would be the champion because the Brit has more victories, 11 against five by Rosberg.
Rosberg knows he will need some help, no matter what.
“I need to win Abu Dhabi and hope for some help from Lewis,” he says. “It’s difficult with the car we have. Maybe Williams can do a lucky strike or something.”
Williams has been one of the closest teams to Mercedes, and was especially competitive at Interlagos, where Felipe Massa finished third. Another good run by Williams could boost Rosberg’s chances.
“I need some Felipe Massa help,” Rosberg says.
Rosberg was third in Abu Dhabi last year, four spots ahead of Hamilton. The same scenario next week would be enough to give Rosberg the title. Rosberg must finish fifth or better to keep his chances alive.
“It’s going to be a great battle,” he says. “Lewis is a great competitor and always on the edge, so it will be an exciting race to watch in Abu Dhabi.”
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