Hamilton wary of Rosberg forcing him out of title race

A fired-up Lewis Hamilton refused to rule out the prospect of title rival Nico Rosberg deliberately taking him out of the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and feels he would be the moral victor in this year's championship.

Nico Rosberg v Lewis Hamilton for the Formula 1 world title (Graphic: Graeme Bandeira)
Nico Rosberg v Lewis Hamilton for the Formula 1 world title (Graphic: Graeme Bandeira)

Hamilton, who was fastest in both practice sessions at the Yas Marina Circuit yesterday, knows that a victory here may not be enough to stop Rosberg from claiming his first world title.

Indeed the German, bidding to emulate his father Keke who won his only title 34 years ago, can finish third on Sunday to finally end his long-running losing streak against his Mercedes team-mate.

Should both drivers fail to make it to the chequered flag, then Rosberg will triumph, too.

And Hamilton, who has been involved in two high-profile crashes with Rosberg this season – one of which saw both Mercedes cars fail to make it beyond the first lap – suggested Rosberg may entertain the thought of a race-ending collision to clinch the title.

“I don’t think it’s an idea that should be ignored,” Hamilton, who last month suggested his Mercedes team were conspiring against him after his engine blew up in Malaysia. “I like to think higher of people that I’m racing against.

“I generally in my heart of hearts, want to win because I’m the best. I want to pass you because I’m better, I’ve out-smarted you. I don’t want to have any victory where it’s been given to me or done something wrong to get the victory. There’s nothing heroic about that.”

Hamilton, 31, will end the year with one more victory than Rosberg should he triumph on Sunday. He will also have more poles. And while Hamilton suffered engine problems at the races in China and Russia – before then having to start last in Belgium as a knock-on effect from those issues, as well as his engine failure in Malaysia – Rosberg has enjoyed a relatively trouble-free campaign.

“I feel a certain way in my heart as to how I have performed,” Hamilton added. “If he (Rosberg) is labelled the world champion it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the way it is labelled in my heart.

“Often, when you watch TV and you look at the world champions you generally hope that the world champion is because they are the best in all areas, and all year long. But in my heart I will feel a certain way, in terms of how I have performed, my pace and my ability and those sort of things.

“It is just unfortunate that this sport is unlike other sports where it is solely the individual. Jeez, man, I would be in a different position right now if it was solely down to personal performance and not about how a team collectively together perform. If it was just me and the racquet, for example.

“It doesn’t take anything from the achievement that he (Rosberg) would have achieved – that won’t change anything there and he will be champion – but for me personally, I will know and because of that it will be a lot easier to move forward.”

Hamilton was the fastest of the two championship protagonists here yesterday. The Briton finished the opening session 0.374 seconds ahead of Rosberg before edging the German out by 0.079 seconds later in the day.

There were two alarming moments for Hamilton. He emerged unscathed from an early spin in the opening 90-minute session and then feared he had a problem with his gearbox – a concern his Mercedes team dismissed as insignificant.

And while Hamilton knows that a fourth consecutive victory on Sunday will not on its own be enough to win the title, he will be pleased to have beaten his rival on Friday as he bids to heap the pressure on the championship leader.

Hamilton, 31, is reliant on outside help to win the title and seal what he is likely to regard as the finest achievement of his career.

But despite the Red Bulls boasting an impressive charge in the early session – with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo finishing third and fourth – they slipped further behind the Mercedes pair on Friday evening.

Sebastian Vettel was third, but was stranded on the track with a gearbox failure.