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Unleashed at last: Merc's Nico and Lewis

2014-10-14 11:26

LEWIS VS NICO: Mercedes' driver duo is up for fight to the end of the 2014 F1 season in a bid to win the Drivers' title in Abu Dhabi. Image: AFP

ALAN BALDWIN

LONDON, England - Mercedes is almost ready to unleash Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg now that the title-chasing pair has secured the team's first Formula 1 Constructors' title.

Almost…

Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff said after the team's ninth 1-2 and 13th win of 2014 at Sunday's inaugural Russian GP: "If you look at the points, we’ve made a huge step towards the Drivers' title. We could be coming into a situation which everybody would love and it's safe to let them race in the way they want to race."

For now, until it is mathematically certain that the Mercedes drivers cannot be overtaken, there remains "an invisible little leash" restraining them.

RED BULL A THREAT?

While there is no question in anyone's mind that Hamilton or Rosberg will be crowned champion at the end of the season there is still the slimmest of chances that Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo could do it.

The Australian is 92 points behind Hamilton and 75 behind Rosberg with 100 remaining to be won from the last three races. No other driver is in contention.

Ricciardo is the only man other than the Mercedes drivers to have won this season but he would still need three more victories to have any chance - and even then it would require the Silver Arrows to draw an unthinkable blank.

Realistically, his chances are likely to be snuffed out at the next race in Austin, Texas, in three weeks' time.

The one thing Mercedes does not want is to go to Abu Dhabi with Ricciardo still in with a shot and double points - 50 for the winner - available for the first time.

The twist in the tail means Hamilton can take nothing for granted, despite having won more than twice as many races as his team mate. He said he would just focus on trying to win - as always.

POSITIVE THOUGHTS

"Whatever will be, will be," Hamilton told reporters on Sunday night after the Russian race. "It’s important not to put any negative energy or concern out there - and there's no need to be concerned because I've the utmost belief in this team and the car, and I'm in the best form of my life.

"There's no point thinking 'What if this happens or that happens, or what happens if he wins?'. There's no point thinking those things.That's the wrong way to look at it."

The 2008 champion's triumph in Sochi made him only the fourth driver - after Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and his compatriot Nigel Mansell - to win nine races in one season.

Rosberg has won four, Ricciardo three. Yet Hamilton is still only 17 points clear of team mate Rosberg, who has everything to play for. It is not beyond the realms of possibility for Hamilton to win 11 races this season and still end up without the title if Rosberg finishes second in the next two and then wins in Abu Dhabi with Hamilton suffering a retirement.

For the moment, however, Hamilton is in the form of his life. His victory in Sochi was his fourth in a row and he was quickest all weekend.

'STILL HAVE TEAM FEELING'

Team boss Wolff added: "I’ve seen Lewis (Hamilton) in such a great state of mind. He is a happy person. He is happy in his life, he is happy in the team.”

Wolff made clear he wanted Hamilton to stay beyond the end of 2015, when his contract expires: “There’s so much competition in the team between the drivers but we are still having this team feeling.

“In the briefings, in our discussions, there is energy. And it's moving the team forward. Hamilton is definitely in a different league since I first met him."

Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 F1 season – fresh reports every day.
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