Welcome to the Virgin Media Midweek Kick-off! With just two points separating the leading pair as the F1 season moves into its home straight, we ask writers Matt Blake and Mark Bailey if Nico Rosberg can slip past his rival…
YES! His time has come
“Rosberg has pulled out of Hamilton’s slipstream, ready to overtake” – Matt Blake, sports writer, Virgin Media
Rosberg’s got momentum
It’s been a funny old season. Rosberg started it off in scorching fashion, racking up four consecutive victories and what looked an insurmountable 43-point buffer. But then Hamilton ate that lead like Pac-Man at a points party, streaking ahead with six wins in seven. But this is F1, and Rosberg’s rediscovered his mojo, going to Singapore on the back of two consecutive wins. The season’s in its home straight, and he’s pulled out of Hamilton’s slipstream, ready to overtake. He’s got the power of momentum – it should not be underestimated.
Past predicts the future
To predict the future, you can always look to the past. Last season, Rosberg stormed home to win the final three Grands Prix in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. It wasn’t enough to take the crown from Hamilton, but that championship finale wasn’t anything like as close as this. More importantly, those three races – plus the Malaysian GP, which he also won last year – are yet to come. He’s proved he can finish strong. He just needs to do it again.
He’s holding the hand of history
In winning the Chinese GP in April, Rosberg drove into the history books. It made him one of just seven drivers to win at least the first three races of a season since F1’s inception. That’s impressive, but here’s the nub: all six who came before him went on to win the championship. If history does for Rosberg what it did for Alberto Ascari (1953), Juan Manuel Fangio (1954, 1957), Ayrton Senna (1991), Nigel Mansell (1992), Michael Schumacher (1994, 2000, 2004) and Damon Hill (1996) he’ll sail it. He’s shaken history’s hand, now all he needs to do is hold on to it and not let go; it’ll drag him to the title.
He’s got to shake the monkey on his back
With 21 Formula One wins now under his belt, Rosberg holds the dubious record of being history’s most successful driver who’s never won a championship. That monkey grows fatter and heavier with every race he wins. If it’s not eating him alive already, it must at least be nibbling his shoulders. He has to shake the monkey before it devours his confidence, then his career. He knows that this is his best ever chance to do it.
Lewis is wobbling
A slew of mechanical faults has plagued parts of Hamilton’s season. Even when they finally seemed fixed, he fluffed his start at Monza in Italy, blaming an iffy clutch. If it is the beginning of another Hamilton slowdown, Rosberg may as well put the Moët in the fridge now. Yes, it’s an enormous “if”. But then, to quote commentary-box legend Murray Walker: “If is a very big word in Formula One; in fact, IF is F1 spelled backwards”.
NO! Lewis is king
“Rosberg wants to win, Hamilton knows how to win. That’s the difference” – Mark Bailey, writer, The Telegraph
It’s a blip, not a breakdown
Yes, Lewis Hamilton has seen his lead shredded from 19 points to just two after his Mercedes teammate and rival Nico Rosberg secured back-to-back wins in Belgium and Italy, but Stevenage’s finest is not exactly skidding off the track. In Belgium, Hamilton started from the back of the grid after serving a series of engine penalties and still bagged a miraculous third place. In Italy, he outpaced Rosberg by half a second in qualifying to take pole before a dodgy start (caused by a clutch problem, not driver error) forced him to fall behind and finish second. Given that Rosberg was a whopping 43 points ahead back in May, Hamilton will be delighted to rock up at the Singapore Grand Prix two points clear.
This Brit has bulldog spirit
Don’t be fooled by the diamond earrings and private jet. For a clue to Hamilton’s real temperament, take a look at his pet pooches: a pair of bulldogs called Roscoe and Coco. Hamilton is a gritty and tenacious competitor who has scrapped his way to titles at every level from British Formula Renault and the Formula Three Euro Series to GP2 and F1. A born winner, he is already third on the list of all-time F1 race winners and has more records than David Guetta.
Hamilton has global pedigree
As the F1 roadshow leaves Europe and goes global for the final seven races, history confirms that Hamilton has the edge. The British driver has previously triumphed at five of the seven circuits still remaining, while Rosberg has won at just three: Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, which just happen to be the final three races of 2016. By then Hamilton will already have the title in the bag.
Lewis is Nico’s bogeyman
Hamilton and Rosberg have been rivals ever since their childhood karting days when they squabbled over everything from table tennis matches to unicycle races. But Hamilton has been the alpha ever since the boy racers accelerated into Formula One. While he’s chasing his fourth world title, Rosberg is still hunting his first, which leaves the German with a mountain-sized mental block to overcome. Rosberg can’t even escape the spectre of Hamilton at home – the drivers share the same swimming pool at their apartment block in Monaco.
Hamilton can handle it
If the F1 season goes to the wire, Hamilton has shown he can stay cool under pressure. The British driver won his first title in 2008 on the last corner of the final lap in Brazil, overtaking Timo Glock to secure fifth place and pip a devastated Felipe Massa to the title. Rosberg wants to win. Hamilton knows how to win. That is the difference.
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