Rosberg, Hamilton brace for title showdown in Brazil
Win in Brazil on Sunday, win the Formula One title: Nico Rosberg’s task sounds simple enough but is a lot harder to achieve.
The German is one step away from securing his first championship, which he will do if he wins at Interlagos regardless of where Mercedes team mate, triple champion and title rival Lewis Hamilton finishes.
The odds are in Rosberg’s favour — he has won for the past two seasons from pole position in Sao Paulo whereas the anti-clockwise circuit has yet to reward Hamilton with a victory.
“I am feeling great of course because it is awesome to be fighting for the world championship with two races to go. I am excited about the weekend and looking forward to it and of course I am going to try and go for the win,” said the German at a news conference next to Hamilton.
The pressure of being within touching distance of a lifelong dream can play on the mind, and increase the pressure, while the fickle Sao Paulo weather can wreak havoc with the best laid plans.
Last year, Hamilton had already won the title and his focus was elsewhere. This time he comes on the back of two successive wins and, like Rosberg, seeking a hat-trick.
“I have had lots of great, or mixed, experiences here so it is a real challenge to try and come here and win for the first time, something that Nico (Rosberg) and Felipe (Massa) have experienced in the past but that is my goal and I have nothing really to lose,” said Hamilton.
Another win for the Briton would take the battle down to the wire at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina and, if Rosberg were to fail to score in Brazil, a potential ‘winner takes all’ scenario.
One man who has won in Brazil is local favourite Felipe Massa. The Williams driver is bowing out at the end of this season and will be emotional during his final home Grand Prix this weekend.
“I see these guys racing next year I will definitely miss to be here. But I am so happy for everything. You know, I passed through this 15 years in Formula One. Every people that I met – friends, drivers, the competition I had with these guys for quite a long time so yes, I will miss, definitely, this place,” said Massa.
During the news conference, the topic turned to the previous race at the Mexico Grand Prix after several controversial penalties were issued.
FIA race director Charlie Whiting attended the news conference to try and clear the air on a number of issues.
The first of which was regarding a penalty issued to Red Bull Max Verstappen, that saw him miss out on a podium place. The Dutchman believed that Hamilton should also have been hit with a penalty for a similar offence at the start of the race. The Mercedes driver escaped punishment.
However, Whiting detailed the differences between the two incidents, showing the packed room video footage to support his argument.
“The principal difference between the two was that in Lewis’ (Hamilton) case it was felt that he didn’t gain any lasting advantage and in Max’s (Verstappen) he did. You can see that Lewis makes a small mistake at the beginning, cuts across and gains significant track advantage but then sets about giving that back immediately.
“You can see that on the straight he backs off to 80 percent throttle to give that advantage back because obviously he has got a significant advantage there and then about a minute later the safety car is deployed and that advantage is gone completely. So, the stewards felt no lasting advantage,” said Whiting, whilst sitting next to Hamilton.
“Of course I don’t agree with the decision but it doesn’t really make a lot of difference, does it? I’ve got a penalty. I think if you give penalties, give it to both or you don’t give any penalties. But I think what we maybe need to change for the future is that once you go off it should be a penalty on its own instead of the stewards interfering with that to decide a penalty. I think we need to come up with a solution that, once you go off, that should be the penalty on its own.”
Whiting was also asked about the behaviour of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Mexico.
Stewards promoted and demoted the German to and from the podium after he tangled with Red Bull’s Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and then let him off for hurling abuse at race director Charlie Whiting over the radio.
Vettel finished fourth on the road in Mexico but was promoted to the podium after Verstappen was demoted to fifth for gaining an advantage by going off the track while defending against the Ferrari driver.
The Dutchman had refused to cede position to the German on the track, triggering the expletive-laden rant by Vettel who then clashed with Verstappen’s team mate Ricciardo.
After a stewards’ investigation, Vettel was then handed a penalty that demoted him to fifth for a dangerous move while defending his position, elevating Ricciardo to third and Verstappen to fourth.
Vettel has since apologized to Whiting, although he still doesn’t accept the penalty.
“I don’t agree with the decision that was made. I think I moved over once to defend my position, after that yeah, I think I gave Daniel enough room on the inside; I kept the car straight for more than the majority of the braking, so I think the reason why, from my point of view, why Daniel locked up so bad is because there was no grip on the inside and it’s something that… yeah… I think we all knew.
“There were people locking up on other corners when they were offline, so I think it actually looks a bit worse than it was. I don’t think it was actually dangerous for Daniel at that point but okay, I have to deal with the decision,” said the German former champion.
Ferrari have asked the FIA to review the time penalty given to Vettel in Mexico.
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