The 2016 Formula 1 season is drawing to a hotly anticipated close, having been another classic in the sports history. While the battle at the front on track has sometimes lacked the all-out excitement of previous years, there has still been drama a-plenty in a season that has seen the youngest ever winner of a race, mid-season rule changes, serious crashes and the birth of the “Shoey” – where Australian grinning-machine and F1 ace Daniel Ricardo drinks his podium champagne from his race boot – apparently the “cold taste [of champagne] kills the bad stuff, so it’s delicious!”.
Going in to the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, the title is still up for contention, but with only two men with a chance of winning: Lewis Hamilton – the boy from Stevenage turned 3-time Formula 1 world champion, international super star (he’s even in Call of Duty these days!) with more F1 wins than any driver in history (51) bar the great Michael Schumacher (91). His challenger: Nico Rosberg – son of 80’s Formula 1 legend and world champion Keke Rosberg, 23-time race winner, but still chasing that illusive first world championship.
Rosberg has been with the now uber-successful Mercedes team since it formed out of the remanence of Brawn GP in 2010. Whereas Hamilton joined the team in 2013, just 1 year before the biggest rule shakeup in Formula 1 history catapulted Mercedes to the head of the field with their revolutionary turbocharged hybrid powertrain. Since then, Hamilton has won the title twice in succession, to add to his previous 2008 success with McLaren.
It sounds then that Rosberg is completely outclassed by Hamilton, and that he should stand very little chance to beat the Brit to the title over the final two races of the season, but the stats only paint half the picture.
Hamilton goes to Brazil with an impressive 330 points to his name, 19 less than championship leader Rosberg on 349. With 25 points up for grabs for the winner, Hamilton needs to win, with Rosberg finishing 7th just to draw even. Realistically, Rosberg will need to hit problems outside of his control – crashing out or car issues – for Hamilton to stand a chance. But again, this is not out of the question.
In 2012, some bloke called Sebastian Vettel went in to the Brazilian GP looking to secure his third world title, but on lap 1 was hit by another driver, damaging his car and temporarily putting him last in the race. In a stunning drive through treacherous conditions, Vettel stormed back through the field to finish just high enough to beat Fernando Alonso to the title. One of many great Brazilian Grand Prix over the years, 2012 goes to show that the 2016 title race is still wide open. Hamilton knows this himself, having overtaken a driver on the last corner of the season in Brazil, to win his first title back in 2008, in the country of his boyhood hero, Ayrton Senna.
So who will win the title? Hamilton is regarded as one of the fastest and most complete drivers of all time, but over the course of this season Rosberg has had the edge. No one can truly predict what will happen, only observe what is lining up to be one of the best season ends in years. The lights go out for the Brazilian Grand Prix at 16:00 this Sunday, followed by the season closer in Abu Dhabi on 27th November. If Rosberg wins in Brazil, it’s all over. If Hamilton wins, the fight goes on to Abu Dhabi.