Johannesburg - Come Sunday evening, there is going to be one very happy driver in the Mercedes camp, and another feeling rather disappointed.
Mercedes head into the title-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix knowing that the Drivers’ Championship trophy will return to Brackley for the third year running.
The only question is: Will it be Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton?
The German holds a 12-point advantage, which means he only has to finish on the podium at the Yas Marino circuit to wrap up his maiden title.
As such, it is hard to conceive Rosberg losing out, given Mercedes’ incredible form. The Brackley squad, though, is well aware that reliability has not been their strong suit.
As Niki Lauda put it, “when it comes to the last few laps and, say, Nico is second or third, he will just be praying, ‘please, car, don’t stop on me’.”
Hamilton will be ready to capitalise on any misfortunes that may befall his team-mate as he looks to end the season with a fourth win on the trot.
A P1 is his best shot at retaining the title, but even then, it is not in his hands. He will, as Christian Horner explained, need others – most likely the Red Bull pairing – to get involved.
“There’s no point in Lewis being ahead by half a lap,” said the Red Bull team boss in the build-up to the race.
“If he’s smart, he’s going to back the cars up so there is racing behind him because that’s the only way the result will fall his way.”
While Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff may want the Red Bull team-mates, especially the fearless Max Verstappen, to stay far away from his title-fighting drivers, Hamilton needs the Dutchman and Daniel Ricciardo to find Red Bull’s old form around the Yas Marina circuit.
Red Bull has in the past shown incredible pace around the 21-corner track, winning three of the seven grands prix. But all three went to Sebastian Vettel, who is driving a Ferrari.
The German, who in 2012 raced from the pit lane to the podium, was also the first driver to win a world title in Abu Dhabi as he came from behind to win the title in 2010.
Hamilton sealed the deal in 2014, also with the race win.
Sunday's Grand Prix will mark the farewell race for Felipe Massa, who is retiring from the sport, and Jenson Button, who is taking a year-long sabbatical with the slim potential of returning to the grid in 2018.
Both stalwarts will be keen to go out with a strong finish, but it is the battle at the sharp end for F1’s biggest prize that has captured the attention in Abu Dhabi.
Rosberg will be eager to keep up the trend of wrapping up the title under the lights with a race win, but with a P3 being all he requires, the numbers game will be what he plays on Sunday. – TEAMtalk Media