Nico Rosberg has urged Lewis Hamilton to keep it clean in their Formula 1 world title showdown in Abu Dhabi tomorrow.
The warning came ahead of their end-of-season clash at the Yas Marina circuit being dubbed the ‘Duel in the Desert’.
It was a reminder from Rosberg to Hamilton to play fair, despite the contentious issues that may have occurred between the duo over the course of the past few months.
In particular, Rosberg’s manoeuvre in qualifying in Monaco when he appeared to make a mistake before reversing back on track, so ensuring himself of pole position in the process, has been deemed deliberate by many seasoned observers.
A few months later at the Belgian Grand Prix, Rosberg deliberately opted not to pull out of a crash with Hamilton who was later forced to retire from the race with damage sustained in the incident.
With Hamilton in control of the current situation as he has a 17-point lead over Rosberg, he could easily decide to take matters into his own hands, as has occasionally been the way in F1 in the past.
Asked whether it would be a totally clean fight, Hamilton replied: “Yeah, I don’t really know what else to say. That’s how it’s been.
“You have to go into the weekends believing that’s going to be the case.”
Pushed as to whether any conversations between the duo would be necessary ahead of the race, Hamilton initially issued a stern “no”.
Suggested to the 29-year-old it was unnecessary or they already had an understanding, Hamilton added: “We don’t need to.
“It’s already been discussed at the beginning of the season and several times through the season, and particularly after Spa.
“There’s no reason to revisit it. We’re not children, we should know what is wrong and what is right.”
Asked for his thoughts, Rosberg made clear it is down to Hamilton to stay on the straight and narrow.
Rosberg said: “Lewis can do something to keep it clean which is drive cleanly himself. It’s not like he can’t do anything.”
Of the two, Rosberg appeared the more composed, albeit with Hamilton insisting he was not feeling the heat of the situation.
In practice, Hamilton finished a slender 0.083secs clear of Rosberg, with Kevin Magnussen in his McLaren the best of the rest at nearly three-quarters of a second off the pace.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel – heading for Ferrari next season – and Williams’s Valtteri Bottas, also managed to finish within a second of Hamilton.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was sixth fastest, then Kimi Raikkonen in his Ferrari.
Jenson Button was eighth, albeit late on to the track given earlier struggles and managing only 23 laps. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat was ninth, followed by Felipe Massa.