FINAL COUNTDOWN: Mercedes drivers' Nico Rosberg (front) and Lewis Hamilton will face off in the 2014 title showdown on November 23 at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. Image: AP
SAO PAULO, Brazil - The two weeks leading up to the 2014 Abu Dhabi finale (Nov 23) could be the biggest challenge yet for Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg take their Formula 1 title battle down to the wire.
He is prepared for a bumpy ride all the way to the chequered flag at Yas Marina in a race with double points on offer for the first time and might need to think about installing seat belts on his pit-wall perch.
However, the message he will be telling both drivers is that, whatever happens on November 23, it is only a beginning and not an end.
'ONLY THE BEGINNING'
Wolff told Reuters at the 2014 Brazilian F1 GP, which was won by Rosberg with Hamilton in second: "The end of the season is not the end of the world. We will aim to provide the two of them with a car which is capable of winning more championships.
"They still have many more years in their careers to score championships."
Hamilton left Interlagos with a lead of 17 points, meaning he need only finish second at Abu Dhabi to take his second title, even if Rosberg wins the race.
Double points, 'Abu Double' to largely unimpressed fans, is an unprecedented novelty that may well be a one-off. Wolff dislikes the concept, believes commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone now does too despite coming up with the original idea, and said it was "probably something we should be getting rid of for next season”.
The immediate problem for Wolff, whose team has already won the 2014 Constructors' championship, is managing the run-up to Abu Dhabi.
Mercedes has dominated the 2014 season and won 15 of 18 races, started on pole 17 times and has a record 11 1-2 finishes.
Rosberg picked up the inaugural pole-position trophy in Brazil with his 10th of the season and there is every prospect of another private battle between the two Mercedes drivers in Abu Dhabi.
Wolff said the build-up would be more challenging than dealing with disappointment after the race. "The aftermath is relationship management, which is important for the future, but the run-up is important to maintain the balance, to maintain respect between the two, and to let it stay a respectful relationship.
"It will not be smooth. We need to buckle up and I am very much looking forward to buckling-up. The ride we've had this season so far every weekend was a challenge."
MERC'S DUELING DRIVERS
Wolff said he had read a magazine article in which former TV commentator Murray Walker recalled an interview with McLaren team mates Alain Prost and Niki Lauda after their 1984 championship battle. Lauda, now the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team, won by half a point.
"He (Walker) remembered Alain Prost being very honourable and good. Interestingly, that guy went on to win four championships," said Wolff, who was adamant that whoever had most points would be a worthy champion.
"One is going to win and one is going to lose and that says it all," said Wolff.
The nightmare scenario would be for one of the two, particularly Hamilton who has 10 wins to the German's five, to suffer a technical failure that would cast “a big shadow” over the outcome.
Each has already had costly retirements, even if Mercedes has the dominant V6 turbo hybrid power-unit that has been far more reliable than those of its rivals.
Wolff said: "We have had some technical situations this year with this brand-new technology and that is something we are trying to avoid under any circumstances.
"A breakdown would be a real nightmare.”Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 F1 season – fresh reports every day.