The Formula One record books will attribute the surname of the individual who is crowned the 2014 World Champion with two drivers’ titles following Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Only the former – Lewis Hamilton, is already champion in his own right, having triumphed in spectacular circumstances in 2008. Nico Rosberg is yet to taste the ultimate success – he will be hoping to emulate father Keke’s glory, achieved thirty-two years earlier.
Hamilton’s ten victories versus Rosberg’s five to date spearheads the notion that the former is the deserving champion, yet it needs to be remembered that Rosberg Sr. saluted just once on the way to his 1982 title. Then, no driver won more than twice. Food for thought. Hamilton himself won on one fewer occasion (5) than rival Felipe Massa (6) in ’08 – but the debate surrounding that season’s controversial Belgian Grand Prix is always going to be drawn into the equation. Let’s leave this theory alone.
All that matters now is what transpires under the lights at Yas Marina on Sunday evening. And the small factor of double points. The permutations which lend itself to the outcome as a result of this innovation – not long for the sport based on recent conjecture, means barring some unforeseen spanner in the works – mechanical failure, or on a potentially sinister level – a collision, that the identity of the champion won’t be known until the chequered flag.
Simply, Hamilton needs to finish second and he is a multiple champion – and it only gets easier if Rosberg isn’t the driver ahead. The Briton has everything to lose, and little to gain by engaging in brinkmanship. Not that he will be content to park his car behind his team-mate following the first corner. Memories of a commanding lead heading into the 2008 finale and only scraping home by the skin of his teeth courtesy of a penultimate corner pass means Hamilton will be reluctant to leave anything to chance.
The 29-year old endured rotten luck in the first half of his campaign. His first race at Australia lasted just three laps, whilst brake failure at Canada and issues during qualifying at Austria, Germany and Hungary severely hampered his fortunes on race day. That he salvaged podium placings in each situation is testament to his resilience, these points could be the deciding factor.
Rosberg, conversely, is in the position of relying on every factor working in his favour. Perhaps this is a good thing – he knows that he must win the race to give himself the most amount of breathing space in the instance of Hamilton encountering problems. Finishing second, with Hamilton fifth, for instance, would not be sufficient for the German to complete the second father-son title feat. But first, he needs to beat Hamilton into the first corner, anything less and he’s leaving his hopes to divine intervention.
Though the German has seldom outraced his team-mate on-track this season – he was beaten in a straight fight at Bahrain and Spain, and was pressured into a costly error at Italy, his consistency has kept him in contention for the duration of his campaign. Ten second placings are hard to criticise, it could be than an eleventh is enough to secure the crown – but a victory would go a long way to ensuring he is viewed a a worthy champion.
Sebastian Vettel – yesterday confirmed in the season’s equally worst kept secret as a Ferrari driver for 2015, will be looking to sign off his Red Bull legacy on a high note. With four titles in six seasons at the senior outfit, and seven and a half seasons representing the energy drinks umbrella in the sport, the German could be a surprise player this weekend. Whether he meddles in the Mercedes shoot-out is questionable, but the 27-year old has a rich history at the venue, triumphing three times in the event’s five year history.
Fernando Alonso – who will mark his final appearance for Ferrari and is almost certainly bound for a return to McLaren, will also be keen conclude the failed partnership on a high note. Regardless, both parties will go their separate ways following Sunday evening with a bitter taste, so near yet so far on multiple occasions before things fell away spectacularly in the past two campaigns.
Caterham could be marking its’ swansong in the sport having been successful in crowdfunding – despite the dubious nature of the scheme in relation to the administrators. It can only be hoped they aim higher than a token five lap trundle to claim their presence.
Sunday will mark the conclusion of the first campaign for the polarising turbo-era and with this, an intensification in debate about the future of the sport. Two outfits in Caterham and Marussia – in any proposed guise, are set to be non-starters next season, with a large question mark surrounding several others.
The old saying is whoever is champion deserved to win. Whilst it can be argued that one deserves it more than the other, there is no doubting that both individuals are worthy of being in the position to contend for the ultimate prize.