Relaxed Hamilton winning the mind games with nervy Rosberg
British driver is 12 points behind as pressure mounts on rival not to throw away the title at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
The Formula 1 season comes to an end this weekend at Abu Dhabi with the title still undecided. German Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, who is favourite to claim his first championship, has a 12-point lead over his teammate and defending champion Lewis Hamilton, but it's the British driver who has the momentum that might clinch the season finale.
Hamilton has won the past three races and was fastest in practice on Friday. If he outperforms Rosberg on Sunday he could still take the title.
How can Hamilton win the championship?
"For Hamilton to win his fourth world title – after successes in 2008, 2014 and 2015 – he needs to claim victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and hope Rosberg finishes outside the top three, or does not finish at all," says the BBC.
"If Hamilton comes second, Rosberg would have to finish outside of the top six. There is still a chance for Hamilton, albeit a slight one, if he comes third as he would need Rosberg to finish ninth, tenth, out of the points, or not finish."
What are his chances?
"Championships have been won from less promising positions," says the BBC, which points out that Hamilton wiped out a 43 point lead for Rosberg earlier in the season.
Hamilton will be favourite to win the race, which is all he can do. "The three-time champion has shown that when the pressure is turned up he can switch back into world-class mode," says the Daily Telegraph.
Hamilton is only in this position because of mechanical issues that plagued him early in the season. "Rosberg was handed the initiative in the title race rather than wrestling it from Hamilton," says the paper. "Hamilton has shown by comfortably winning the last three races that when he has the focus and determination, he remains clear of the rest of the pack."
This puts pressure on Rosberg. Driver and TV pundit Paul di Resta told The Guardian: "It is Nico's title to lose. But the one danger for him is that he's too cautious, as he was in Monaco, and maybe Malaysia, where he collided with Vettel."
Who looks most relaxed?
Hamilton appears to be winning the mind games ahead of the 'Duel in the Desert' as the race has been billed.
"There was no handshake and little eye contact between the protagonists" at their press conference on Thursday says Kevin Eason of The Times. "It was a fascinating set play, the extreme opposites placed side by side on the podium with the cameras clicking. Rosberg, blond and brainy but reserved to the point of pain, up against an expansive Hamilton, the kid from the Stevenage council estate wrapped in gold chains who has made winning his destiny.
"Rosberg is in the box seat for Sunday, leaving his team-mate no alternative but to win. Yet he reacted like a man facing the gallows – and maybe he is in Formula 1 terms."
Losing the title would be a "crushing blow" for Rosberg says the Telegraph and "Hamilton has been playing mind games all week".
The pressure on the German is huge. "Rosberg has shown that Hamilton has got under his skin in the past and it will the bitterest of pills to swallow if he doesn't get the job done and dusted in the desert."
What else could affect the outcome?
Hamilton "will be reliant on help from his fellow drivers to win the title, and seal what he is likely to regard as the finest achievement of his career", says the Daily Mail. His biggest allies are likely to be Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who both appear capable of upsetting the established order.
Verstappen in particular could have a "profound effect" on the race, Jackie Stewart tells the Guardian. "I think the two Red Bulls cars will be very, very competitive. That's what could decide the weekend. And the last race is also very important for Ferrari. A podium finish would be very big for them. So we have four drivers capable of disturbing Nico Rosberg from having what I would call a calculated race."
Mercedes had reliability problems earlier in the season, when Hamilton suffered three engine failures. Were Rosberg to suffer something similar in the final race of the season it would snatch his chance of glory. But, as the BBC, notes Rosberg says he is "not worried" as "it is something that I cannot influence".