F1: Record-breaking 21-race season comes down to Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg unassayed

Author : unstealthy2011
Publish Date : 2021-04-08 15:39:06

F1: Record-breaking 21-race season comes down to Lewis Hamilton vs. Nico Rosberg unassayed

The record 21-race Formula One season will crown its champion at the very last grand prix in Abu Dhabi, Sunday.

Nico Rosberg leads the championship by 12 points from his Mercedes teammate, and defending world champion, Lewis Hamilton.

If Hamilton collects all 25 points for a race win in Abu Dhabi then Rosberg needs to finish no lower than third to win his first world title. The Mercedes teammates are evenly matched this season, winning nine races each.


'It's not been a perfect season and I'm faced with pretty impossible odds no matter what I do this weekend,' says Hamilton. 'But I can't and won't give up.'

Rosberg added: 'I have to treat this like any other race. The closer it gets, the more I'm feeling excited. It will be a big battle and hopefully the fans will get a great show to end the year.'

Haven't we been here before?

If Rosberg and Hamilton are feeling a sense of déjà vu it's because they have both been here before.

In 2014, Hamilton arrived in Abu Dhabi leading Rosberg in the drivers' championship by 14 points. For the first, and only time, in F1 history there were 50 points on the table for the final race of the season setting up Abu Dhabi as a winner-takes-all thriller.

Unfortunately, the hyped desert duel between Hamilton and Rosberg failed to materialize when the German's car lost power from its hybrid energy recovery system at the halfway stage of the race and his challenge fell away.

Read: Hamilton wins 2014 title

Hamilton, who had passed Rosberg for the lead at the start, easily won the race and his first world title with Mercedes. The Briton would win his second for the German team in 2015 at Austin, Texas with three races to spare.

What is still unknown is Rosberg's ability to close out a championship while Hamilton has now done it three times in his F1 career.

The British racer has also twice clinched the title under pressure. As well as the unique intra-team pressures of 2014, Hamilton also took the honors with McLaren on the very last lap of the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008.

The case for Rosberg

Rosberg has arguably carried a weight of expectation ever since he tried out his racing abilities in a go-kart at the age of six.

The 31-year-old is the only son of 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg and, if Rosberg wins Sunday, they would join the late Graham Hill and son Damon as the only father-and-son pairing to both win the coveted F1 crown.

'If I had to skew towards Nico winning his first then I probably would,' retired F1 race winner Mark Webber told CNN. 'To win a first world title would be massive for him and I think he would be a good world champion too.'

Read: Emotional final race for Webber

Rosberg has plenty of experience in F1, joining the grid with Williams as Webber's teammate in 2006, but after losing the world title to Hamilton at the 2015 US Grand Prix something seemed to shift for the German racer.

Rosberg dominated the final three races of the season and then won the first four of 2016 to nail Hamilton in a seven-race winning stretch.

'Nico's resilience is to be admired,' former Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told CNN. 'He's been hammered by Lewis for several years now and he's always come back, he's never given up.

'That's a tough thing to do, to come back every year, dust yourself off, pick yourself up and work out ways of being even stronger the next year when you've just been beaten.'

In 2016, Rosberg had already built an impressive 43-point lead over Hamilton heading into the Spanish Grand Prix but his winning run ended in dramatic fashion when the two Mercedes took each other out on the first lap.

Read: Verstappen wins first race as Mercedes crash out

When the dust settled on the post-race recriminations, Hamilton slowly ignited his championship and going into the summer break after 12 races he held a 19-point lead over his Mercedes teammate.

But Rosberg was not done yet. After celebrating his daughter Alaϊa's first birthday in August, he came back stronger taking his first victories in Belgium, Monza and Singapore to regain the championship lead.

If resilience is what it takes to win the 2016 world title then Rosberg has it in spades this season and for that reason Brawn adds: 'There is a small emotion in me that would like Nico to win.'

The case for Hamilton

If Hamilton doesn't defend his world title in 2016 then he has the perfect excuse -- his car had engine trouble.

Hamilton memorably moaned 'No, no, no' in Malaysia as his engine blew up when he was leading the race with just 15 laps to go, but that wasn't the only time the Briton had cause to complain.

He started from the back of the grid in China and 10th in Russia after being hit by the same failure in the car's hybrid system during qualifying.

At the first F1 race on the streets of Azerbaijan he was stuck in the wrong engine mode and complained on the pit to car radio: 'I don't know what's wrong ... this is ridiculous.'

A series of grid penalties for changing parts on the car's complex engine, put Hamilton on the back row in Belgium but he limited the damage to brilliantly fight back to third.

On more than one occasion Hamilton has questioned why only his Mercedes car has been hampered by reliability problems in 2016 while Rosberg has had a much smoother ride.

After the Malaysian Grand Prix the idea of a conspiracy against Hamilton at Mercedes buzzed on social media with Hamilton himself suggesting: 'Something or someone doesn't want me to win this year.'

Despite the engine gremlins, the three-time world champion has pulled himself back from the brink and into contention.

The Monaco Grand Prix was the first turning point when he passed Rosberg, who was struggling in wet conditions, to win his first race of 2016. Victories in Canada, Austria, Great Britain and Hungary saw Hamilton take the championship lead for the first time.

The rollercoaster season turned in favor of Rosberg and the defending champion looked down and out in Japan as Rosberg moved into a 33-point lead.

Read: How to raise an F1 world champion by Hamilton's Dad

But Hamilton dug deep again to win the next three races to deny his teammate the title and set up a finale in Abu Dhabi.

If Hamilton wins the title on Sunday it could rank as the finest of all his four championships.

'For Lewis to get four would be incredible,' agrees Webber. 'He's driven really well and he's been a great guy for the brand of the sport as a triple world champion.'

Who is favorite to win in Abu Dhabi?

Both Rosberg and Hamilton have won the twilight race around the glittering Yas Marina Circuit.

Last season a revitalized Rosberg headed his Mercedes teammate to pole position by 0.377 seconds and comfortably took the checkered flag on race day.

Read: Rosberg wins again in Abu Dhabi

Hamilton has won twice at the desert track, the first time for McLaren in 2011 and then in 2014 with Mercedes.

Intriguingly the British racer also took pole at the very first Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2009 with an under-par McLaren at his fingertips but had to retire from the race.

It will not only be the two Mercedes in the hunt, however, at the final race of the season.

Red Bull is emerging as consistent challengers to the Silver Arrows and with one win apiece in 2016 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will both fancy another victory to underline their status at the team heading into 2017.

Every compelling narrative has to have a subplot and it is not purely fiction to suggest that Red Bull could hamper the title challenge of both Mercedes drivers in Abu Dhabi.

For more news and videos, visit CNN.com/motorsport

The script is written for a blockbuster last installment to the 2016 season and Mercedes' leading man will be unveiled at last.

'It's 50-50 and could go either way,' teases Webber. 'Any technical problem for Nico then Lewis is in the pound seat but Nico already has the runs on the board.'


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