The running theme of the 2014 F1 season has been the dominance of the Mercedes team and their two star drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg writes Eoin Hynes.
Whilst Mercedes have clinched the constructors championship and will undoubtedly see one of their drivers take the drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi next weekend, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. The quality of their car and talent of their drivers has kept all other competitors at bay all season, but it has also provided one of the main talking points throughout the season; the battle between Rosberg and Hamilton has provided entertainment for everyone else, but given Toto Wolff and his team nightmares at times.
The relationship between the two has changed from a fair, competitive one to a very tumultuous one during the course of the season mainly due to various clashes. For example, in Monaco qualifying, where Rosberg brought about yellow flags (seemingly intentionally) on Hamilton’s final qualifying lap, forcing Hamilton to slow down and lose out on P1.
Later came the incident in Spa where Hamilton accused his teammate of deliberately running into him to puncture his tyre and thus ruin his race. Hamilton was furious, Rosberg was disciplined, and tensions were at an all time high. Hamilton’s claims that Mercedes as a German team, were biased towards Rosberg and did nothing to help matters. During media outings and on the podium, the body language of the two spoke volumes.
With mechanical failures and terrible team morale, it was a situation in which the Hamilton of old may have capitulated and ruined his own races by trying to do too much. Instead, he quietly went about his business, winning 5 successive races before Brazil and regaining the lead of the drivers’ championship in the process. Certainly since his move to Mercedes, he seems to have a new maturity. At 29 years of age and having been on the circuit since 2007, Hamilton now appears to have the experience to bring the title home from a leading position.
Nevertheless, it would be disrespectful to Rosberg’s ability to rule him out just yet. With only 17 points between the two going into Abu Dhabi, the new double points system for the final race may play a vital role.
Realistically, the two Mercedes’ won’t have much competition for top spot on the day, bar each other. The most likely permutations for next weekend’s race are simple. Should Rosberg win, he must hope that Hamilton finishes third or lower. It is completely out of his hands and he must put a lot of faith in young Daniel Ricciardo, one of the few drivers who has actually challenged the Mercedes’ this season, to finish above Hamilton. Hamilton only needs to win the race or come second to claim his second drivers’ championship.
A younger Hamilton may have wanted to take top spot in such a situation to rub salt in Rosberg’s wounds, and possibly push too hard and end up with a DNF beside his name in the final standings. Rosberg has come out and said that he thinks Hamilton’s minor spin in Brazil may knock his confidence. However, with Hamilton’s new heightened sense of maturity and ability to keep his head where previously he may have lost it, it would seem that he will be happy to simply secure the points he needs for the title, which bar disaster or mechanical failure are easily attainable for him.
As it stands, the title is Hamilton’s to lose, and that’s who my money would be on. But the beauty of this sport is that anything can happen, and happen it may at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi next Sunday. Although, regardless of who takes the title, we can certainly all be glad for a rivalry as fierce, competitive, and enthralling as theirs.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia