Nico Rosberg is “100 per cent” convinced he can snatch the Formula One world title from the grasp of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg gave himself a fighting chance with a much-needed victory in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix to end Hamilton’s run of five straight wins and close the gap between them to 17 points.
The battle for the championship now goes down to the wire and the final race of a compelling season in Abu Dhabi in two weeks’ time where the controversial double-points rule comes into force.
Another Rosberg victory with Hamilton third at best will ensure he takes the crown, even though he would only have won six races to the 10 of the 29-year-old Briton (permutations below).
Rosberg appreciates without reliability issues, he still requires a helping hand from someone to ensure Hamilton is not runner-up, which is the latter’s minimum requirement to guarantee him his second title.
“We now have a great finale to look forward to in Abu Dhabi,” said Rosberg.
“I’m still believing 100 per cent I can make it but, of course, I will need some help from Felipe (Massa) or Valtteri (Bottas) or Lewis himself.”
Hamilton proved at Interlagos mistakes can happen as he had a chance to take the lead, and potentially with it the win, only to spin when pushing.
At the second round of pit stops, Rosberg took on fresh rubber after lap 26, leading to Hamilton comfortably pumping in the fastest lap of the race at that point on 27.
Given his pace, Hamilton was told to stay out for one more lap, but overcooked it on 28, resulting in the spin at turn four which cost him around seven seconds.
Despite hounding Rosberg for the last 20 laps after the third stop, with the gap continually less than a second, Hamilton never once got close enough to even attempt a pass.
Assessing his error, Hamilton said: “Ultimately it cost me the win.
“I was much quicker up until that point, and on that lap I’d gone a second quicker whilst Nico pitted.
“I thought I was going to pit at the end of that lap so I used everything of the tyres.
“The next lap, I had nothing left. Either way, at the end of the day, I made a mistake, locking the rears into turn four, and with the under-rotation, it just spun me around.
“It was the second time it had happened over the weekend. So, it was no-one’s fault but mine.”
As to his own title prospects, Hamilton is adamant there will be no change to his approach, other than ensuring he keeps it clean.
“I’m going to drive pretty much the same,” said Hamilton.
“I’ll be pushing just as hard in Abu Dhabi, although hopefully I’ll improve, but otherwise it’s everything to play for in the last race.”
The one-two for Mercedes set a new F1 record of 11 for the year, surpassing the 1988 mark of legendary duo Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost from their time together at McLaren.
Rosberg’s win was also the team’s 15th of the season, equalling a feat currently jointly held by Ferrari – on two occasions – and McLaren.
In front of his home fans Felipe Massa was third, followed by Jenson Button in his McLaren who delivered a drive to prove he is worthy of being retained for next season.
Outgoing four-times champion Sebastian Vettel was fifth, with Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen sixth and seventh, followed by Nico Hulkenberg in his Force India, McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Valtteri Bottas in his Williams.
Ahead of the final grand prix of the season here are the permutations as to how Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg can win the title in Abu Dhabi on November 23.
Hamilton currently has a 17-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Rosberg, but the matter is complicated by the fact double points are on offer to the top 10 following the introduction of the controversial ruling for this season.
Hamilton can win the title if:
* he wins or is second
* is third, fourth or fifth and Rosberg does not win
* is sixth and Rosberg does not finish in the top two
* is seventh or eighth and Rosberg does not finish in the top three
* is ninth and Rosberg does not finish in the top four
* is 10th or retires and Rosberg does not finish in the top five
Rosberg can win the title if:
* he wins and Hamilton is no better than third
* is second and Hamilton is no better than sixth
* is third and Hamilton is no better than seventh
* is fourth and Hamilton is no better than ninth
* is fifth and Hamilton is no better than 10th