Lewis Hamilton has conceded it is now unlikely he will stop Nico Rosberg from winning the Formula One title after claiming his rival is “doing all he has to do” to get over the finish line to seal his maiden championship.
Hamilton has crushed his Mercedes team-mate in the last three races — including a spectacular display in the wet in Brazil on Sunday — to move to within 12 points of his title rival ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi a week on Sunday.
However, Rosberg needs only to secure a top-three finish under the floodlights to emulate his father Keke, the 1982 world champion, to end his long-running losing streak to Hamilton.
Indeed, Hamilton, whose title defence has been hampered by poor reliability, could now end the year with more victories and pole positions than Rosberg and still miss out on the title.
“I am happy that I beat everyone, and I am happy that, with the same car as Nico — and Nico is driving at his best right now — he had nothing on me,” said Hamilton. “Nico is doing all he has to do. He has finished every race, not had any problems, whereas I have.
“I am in an awkward position going into the last race. It doesn’t really make a big difference if I go and drive like I do right now, because I have already lost so much through the year.
“I don’t give up, because you never know what could happen. It is unlikely, but you never know what could happen.”
Hamilton has encountered reliability issues this season, none more dramatic than at October’s Malaysian GP, when his engine blew up as he was about to take charge of the championship.
Without that failure, Hamilton, who subsequently hinted at a conspiracy theory from within his own Mercedes camp, would be heading to the final round of Formula One’s longest season with a 16-point lead over Rosberg. Fifth in the desert would have been enough for the title.
“I am happy we are continuing to make history as a team,” said Hamilton. “I am happy at how my new mechanics, that were given to me at the beginning of the year, have gelled so well with me. I am super happy with my engineers, who are the best.
“I am, and I will be proud of myself, as long as I continue to perform. What a year, to have nine wins is amazing.”
Rosberg survived a small spin in Sunday’s chaotic race at Interlagos, and benefited from Red Bull’s peculiar decision to stop Max Verstappen for the intermediate tyres, to cross the line in second place, albeit 11 seconds behind Hamilton.
At one stage, the German had fallen more than 25 seconds adrift of his Mercedes team-mate in the treacherous conditions.
The unpredictable weather in Sao Paulo was the biggest threat to Rosberg’s championship charge.
However, after emerging unscathed, and with the title still in his hands, Rosberg rejected the notion that he is now past the final big hurdle to being crowned champion.
“Abu Dhabi is going to be a difficult race weekend, like always,” said Rosberg. “It is always a challenge to do a good job on a race weekend, and nothing in F1 is easy, so I don’t see it like that.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved