Mercedes drivers set for ‘Duel in the Desert’ title-decider

Mercedes drivers set for ‘Duel in the Desert’ title-decider

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff fears a “personal nightmare” in Abu Dhabi on Sunday should Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One world title dream be blown apart by a mechanical failure.

The showdown the sport has been crying out for in light of the recent cost crisis that has overshadowed on-track events is poised to unfold over the next few days at the Yas Marina circuit.

After 18 grands prix, 17 points separate Hamilton from Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg ahead of ’The Duel in the Desert’.

Contentiously, and for the first time in F1 history, double points are on offer to the top 10, affording Rosberg greater opportunity to take the championship.

Victory for Rosberg, with Hamilton third or worse, will see him claim a crown won by father Keke in 1982.

If the current system had continued into the closing race, Hamilton could have afforded to have finished at worst sixth behind a Rosberg win.

It is why Wolff is praying no trouble befalls either man and it is a clean fight to the finishing line.

“Clearly, Lewis breaking down would have a massive impact on his championship attempt,” said Wolff.

“So we need to provide him with the most reliable car because we want the championship to end in a straight and fair battle, and not by one of them breaking down.

“But then it is my personal nightmare, and it is probably more than a nightmare for Lewis.

“We want to get it right and we want to provide a reliable and quick car to both of the drivers.

“We have (been) talking about transparency and fair behaviour towards the drivers this season, and so it becomes even more important for Abu Dhabi.”

Regardless of what unfolds on Sunday, Wolff has made it clear to the 29-year-old Briton, who is in line for a bumper new contract next week if he agrees to sign, this year’s championship chance will not be his last.

“As much as we in the team don’t want that (mechanical failure) to happen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” added Wolff.

“He will hopefully have many more opportunities to win another championship, or more than this one.”

The suggestion is Hamilton would be a far more worthy winner of the title than Rosberg given he has already won 10 races this year compared to the five for the German.

Wolff recognises such an assessment is a “difficult one” to analyse, adding: “Lewis has won 10 races. More than Nico. Scored more points.

“He has had some drama this season by not being able to start where he deserved to because the car was on fire (in qualifying in Hungary) or had a brake problem (in qualifying in Germany).

“But then you have Nico who has out-qualified Lewis, probably the area were we would have judged Lewis to be the strongest driver out there on raw pace, but Nico was just there.

“I think what we have seen, all through the year, is a pretty equal battle of two worthy champions.

“You will always have fans of Lewis, who will want Lewis to be the world champion, and who will argue he is more talented and a quicker driver, scored more wins and had more reliability issues.

“Then you will have the group of Nico Rosberg fans who will say he was the quicker driver, that he was treated in a very hard way after Spa (when the two drivers collided) and he deserves to win the world championship.

“You are never going to make it right for everybody.”

Wolff, however, has dismissed claims the hierarchy within Mercedes would prefer Rosberg to be world champion given he is German.

Wolff said: “This is maybe not very inspiring for the many fans out there, but the truth is I care about both of them in an equal way.

“They are both great for our brand because they are such different personalities and they are great racing drivers, so for us it doesn’t matter who becomes world champion.”

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