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Rosberg vs. Hamilton: F1 title to be decided at Abu Dhabi GP

2016-11-24 10:45

EPIC FINALE: Mercedes team mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are heading to the final race of the season with the title on the line. Image: AP / Leo Correa

Abu Dhabi - Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will battle for the 2016 F1 Drivers' Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It seems simple for Rosberg; if he finishes in the top three at the Abu Dhabi GP he will win his his first Formula 1 championship.

The German driver has pole position for the title thanks to a 12-point lead over Hamilton heading into Sunday's (November 23) showdown.

Even if Hamilton wins the race, Rosberg will clinch the bigger prize if he crosses the finish line within the top 3 line third.

Favoured to win

Rosberg, who is bidding to stop his Mercedes team mate from winning a third straight title and fourth overall said: "Hopefully, the fans will get a great show to end the year."

Rosberg has been runner-up for the past two seasons, but the odds are stacked in his favor now.

If Hamilton finishes the race in second place, Rosberg only needs to finish sixth, and if Hamilton places third, Rosberg needs reach the chequered flag in eighth. Fourth place for Hamilton means Rosberg is champion regardless of where he places.

READ: Rosberg 'OK' with second as Hamilton cuts into championship lead

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said: "(They) have been exceptional, and either one would make a worthy champion. After such a battle of endurance, the winner can say without doubt that they earned it."

Both have won nine races each this year, and Hamilton has scooped up the past three to stay in contention.

Rosberg may be caught in two minds about how to approach the race.

He does not need pole and can just sit behind Hamilton, knowing that the Mercedes car is easily fast enough to get him on the podium.

In fact, Rosberg has finished in the top three in 15 of 20 races this season, including the past eight.

Race hard vs. playing it safe

But one notable factor may encourage him to race hard, rather than play it safe.

Fourth place in the championship is still up for grabs between Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's Max Verstappen - the 19-year-old Dutchman who has taken F1 by storm.

Vettel, a four-time F1 champion, is only five points ahead of Verstappen, whose relentless hunger to impose himself - not to mention his increasingly fraught relationship with Vettel - may indirectly impact on Rosberg.

READ: Verstappen compared to Senna, Schumacher after epic Brazil GP

If Rosberg chooses to protect third place, rather than chase down Hamilton, he could get caught up in a potential scrap between Vettel and Verstappen, who has been involved in incidents with Ferrari drivers Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

Verstappen said about the 5.5km Abu Dhabi circuit: "A small mistake during one of the many corner sequences can ruin a lap."

Missing out on the title would be especially demoralizing for Rosberg, considering he has been in a strong position for much of the season.

In 2015 Hamilton won with three races to spare, but in 2014, the title went to the last race. However, Rosberg was only in it that year because of the double points rule in place for the last race. The hugely unpopular rule was quickly abolished.

Expecting a fair fight

Rosberg has failed to finish only one race this season, when he collided with Hamilton on the first lap of the Spanish GP in May, sending both drivers out of the race.

A similar incident would gift Rosberg the title, but Hamilton does not anticipate any cynical tactics from his team mate.

READ: Title-chasing Hamilton admits 'impossible odds' against him

The Hammer said: "I don't go into the race expecting anything less than a fair fight. I like to think higher of (Rosberg), and that wouldn't be something he would do."

Rosberg trailed Hamilton by 19 points heading into the summer break, but then turned the tables on Hamilton, who seemed to be drifting out of the reckoning only a few races ago.

Engine failure cost Hamilton a seemingly certain victory at the Malaysian GP.

Rosberg followed up that stroke of luck by padding out his advantage to 33 points with victory at the Japanese GP, where Hamilton finished third.

Hamilton, who has been hampered by engine problems, added: "I'm faced with pretty impossible odds. But I can't give up."

READ: Rosberg can win title with 'Prost-like' driving

Rosberg appears to have settled on a cautious approach for Sunday.

He said: "I was joking that I would still be taking things one race at a time. But, the more I think about it, that's actually not as crazy as it sounds."

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