Today at the star-studded Yas Island Circuit in Abu Dhabi, Lewis Hamilton will set off in pursuit of his second world championship knowing that he only needs to finish second in order to come through the most one-sided season since Jenson Button took the title in 2009.
Then, much as now, there was one stand-out car – the Mercedes engine and controversial diffuser allowing the Brawn GP car to take an unassailable lead by the halfway point in the season, despite the other teams catching up in the latter half of the year.
This time around, there has been no challenge to Hamilton and Rosberg in their far superior Mercedes, and so while in years gone by, a second place to secure a championship would not in any way seem clear-cut. This time around it’s hard to see a problem – assuming that reliability doesn’t come into it.
Rosberg and Hamilton have been rivals and great friends since their karting days, and while the rivalry is as fresh as ever, the friendship aspect to their relationship has most certainly deteriorated. Anybody can see that Hamilton is the far superior driver, and were it not for a series of reliability issues around mid-season, the championship would have been wrapped up by now.
But, with Rosberg needing to win to have any chance, the pressure is all on him, despite his claims to the contrary. Hamilton can just afford to follow his team mate around the track with no risk-taking necessary, although that is not his style.
The British driver will no doubt go straight for the jugular, and Mercedes team bosses will perhaps want to look away as the two most competitive men in the sport go toe-to-toe. One remembers 2004 when Michael Schumacher deliberately took out Damon Hill in the last race at Adelaide to end the race for both Hill and himself and ensure he took the title. Hamilton could quite easily do the same, but these kinds of tactics are not in his make-up.
Pole for Rosberg
Rosberg took pole after a couple of costly errors from Hamilton who will start second, but the start is sure to be nervy from the German/Fin.
Abu Dhabi’s race organisers will be hoping for a drama-packed event, although the majority of “race-goers” can be found on yachts in the Marina listening to Calvin Harris with a glass of champagne… So the race isn’t really the priority for most.
That said, Hamilton has a huge array of high-profile followers with him in the UAE, including Pharrell Williams who played a show last night at the Du Arena just 5 minutes from the track, and Prince Harry is also in attendance as a guest of Red Bull, although you’d expect him to be not-so-secretly backing Hamilton.
Formula 1 has been formulaic this year, but there is just the feeling that something out of the ordinary could possibly unfold this afternoon/evening, which could redeem a season most likely to be remembered for a completely one-sided car which no other constructors could get near…..