Rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg increases
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The intense rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg increased Thursday heading into the final race of the season with Rosberg taunting his Mercedes teammate by urging him to “drive cleanly.”
Tensions between the pair have spilled over on two notable occasions this season, at the Monaco Grand Prix in May and the Belgian Grand Prix in August.
Only 17 points separate Hamilton, the championship leader, from Rosberg ahead of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi GP.
With double points up for grabs, Rosberg can clinch his maiden title — and deny Hamilton his second — if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes third.
Hamilton has won five of the past six races, and finished second behind Rosberg in the previous race in Brazil.
“I need a bit of help from Lewis so that he doesn’t finish second. Hopefully Lewis can come up with something,” a grinning Rosberg said at a news conference, glancing across at Hamilton, who remained unmoved. “It’s going to be intense, a great battle.”
At the Monaco GP, Hamilton was infuriated when Rosberg crashed under no pressure at the end of qualifying, forcing the session to be stopped and denying Hamilton an almost certain pole position as he was set to beat Rosberg’s leading time.
Then, in Spa, Hamilton was livid after Rosberg nudged into his side, puncturing his tire and ending his race. He even accused Rosberg of doing it on purpose and the feud escalated to such an extent that team management had to publicly chastise their drivers in order to keep the situation under control.
Hamilton was asked if there was something he could do to ensure a clean race on Sunday, to which he said there was not, before adding “I don’t really know what else to say, we have to go into the race believing that’s going to be the case.”
That irked Rosberg, who snapped at the British driver.
“Yes, Lewis can do something to keep it clean, which is drive cleanly himself,” Rosberg said.
In Brazil, Hamilton missed out on a sixth consecutive win and 11th of the season after making a mistake and spinning. Although he recovered to take second place, Rosberg has taken encouragement from it.
“I need to do what I can to try and put the pressure on (Hamilton). In Brazil, Lewis made a mistake. There is a chance. So I need to keep going like that,” Rosberg said. “A lot of things can happen. It can happen as easily as a Williams having a great start and slotting in between us two. This track is one of the most difficult to overtake.”
The 29-year-old Hamilton knows all about dramatic title deciders.
He was on the right end of one when securing the F1 title in 2008, beating Felipe Massa on the Brazilian driver’s home track by one point in the driving rain of Sao Paulo.
“In terms of the pressure, I don’t particularly feel any. There’s no special recipe,” said Hamilton, who has won Abu Dhabi in 2011. “It’s a great circuit. It’s suited my (driving) style in the past.”
Rosberg has stressed the fact he has done better in qualifying this season, with 10 pole positions to Hamilton’s seven.
“Knowing that helps, knowing that my qualifying form is going pretty good,” the 29-year-old Geman driver said. “It’s great coming into this weekend, the way Brazil went, sure. That gives me a lot of confidence, definitely.”
Observers inside and outside the paddock are thrilled about Sunday’s showdown.
“It’s good to see they were battling very closely this year, had great races,” outgoing champion Sebastian Vettel said. “They put on a great show for the fans and took it to the last race. Both of them deserve to win.”