It’s the main event: the world championship title. Live from the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi. In the blue corner, we have driving the Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid (#6), the championship leader, with 23 career race wins, 30 pole positions, gunning for his maiden championship title, the challenger, Nico Rosberg! While in the red corner, we have driving the Mercedes F1 W07 Hybrid (#44), with 3 world championships, 52 race wins, 60 pole positions, the defending champion, Lewis Hamilton!
Ladies and Gentlemen. Let’s get ready to rumble!!!
The narrative above would be more suited to a heavyweight boxing title fight than to the final race of a Formula 1 season, however with the astonishing level of dominance Mercedes has continued to exert over its rivals, maybe even more than we were accustomed to seeing with Red Bull in the Vettel era, it is not difficult to see similarities between Formula 1 this season and a gruelling boxing match, each race representing a round of punch and counterpunch, with so many twists and turns.
Only one team has ever looked like producing the champion, and so it has been a two horse race from the beginning. The Constructors Championship was sealed at the Japanese Grand Prix in early October, and the point difference between Mercedes and Red Bull who are currently in second place is a whopping 276 points, leaving the spotlight firmly on the two Mercedes drivers.
In a season where he has finished on pole 11 times with 8 wins, taking him to a career total of 52 race wins, behind only Micheal Schumacher on that list, coupled with a display of brilliant driving on a number of occasions (the Belgian Grand Prix comes to mind), together with an added resilience and mental strength in twice cutting down the significant lead by Nico Rosberg, this has been an improvement, even by Hamilton’s lofty standards. He himself has acknowledged this, but sometimes life is all about the little details, and this is where Rosberg has built his advantage.
The retirement at the Malaysian Grand Prix, together with issues in qualifying at Russia, China and Azerbaijan, mostly due to engine reliability problems, are proving to be obstacles that are too difficult to surmount, even for a man of Hamilton’s talents. Most especially against someone who has been as consistent as Rosberg. It is out of his hands now. It must be tough for Hamilton to know that he may win this final battle, yet lose the war. It seems the only way he would win this fight is via knockout (I.e Rosberg failing to finish the race). However stranger things have happened. No Formula 1 Grand Prix is without its challenges and jeopardy.
Both men have promised to play by the rules. Both men have a clear idea of what is at stake and what is needed by each of them. The battle line is drawn; and at this point it is important to acknowledge the supporting cast: the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, the Ferraris of Seb Vettel and Kimi Raikkonnen and even the old war horses, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. All in all, it promises to be an exciting end to the season.
On a final note, even though it is clear that Hamilton is the better driver, nothing should be taken away from Rosberg’s performance this season. Consistency is a key virtue of elite sports competition and he has been an epitome of consistency. Should he win, he would be a worthy champion; not that anything else matters to him apart from securing the title. However if Lewis Hamilton wins this race, and loses the championship, you can’t help but think he would definitely go home with the feeling the best man didn’t win on the day.