F1 faces civil war as Ecclestone tramples Rosberg and Hamilton
Once again politics overshadows sport as smaller teams accuse F1 bosses of trying to force them out
The 2014 F1 season will end with a head-to-head duel between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg after the German won the Brazilian Grand Prix to cut his British team-mate's championship lead to 17 points with one race remaining.
Under normal circumstances Hamilton would be the massive favourite, needing only to finish in the top six to take the title regardless of his rival's performance. However, Bernie Ecclestone's bizarre decision to award double points for the season finale in Abu Dhabi means that Rosberg has a good chance of pipping Hamilton to the post. If Rosberg can win the race then Hamilton must finish no lower than second.
If it was a familiar tale of Mercedes dominance on the circuit at Interlagos, as Rosberg held off the charge of Hamilton to secure his first win since July and end his team-mate's run of five straight wins. It was also the fourth consecutive one-two for Mercedes, taking the team's tally to an unprecedented 11 for the season.
But as Mercedes prepares to crown one of their drivers world champion, the spectre of civil war overshadows the rest of the grid. In what has been a difficult season for the sport, it was Ecclestone who once again took attention away from the drivers after he ruled out financial aid for struggling teams Force India, Lotus and Sauber.
The announcement could mean "financial ruin" for the outfits and plunged the sport "into fresh depths of bitterness and acrimony", says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph.
It all means that as Ecclestone's circus heads for the Middle East the sport "will end one of its most absorbing seasons in a shambles, split hopelessly down the middle and with the two sides dug in for a long conflict", says Kevin Eason of The Times.
The long-term future of F1 remains a mystery, with the smaller teams convinced they are being forced out in favour of the five big teams and the idea of "customer cars" run by outfits who simply buy their machines from the likes of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren.
"Struggling outfits have been told there is no more money on the table as the sport appears to move inexorably towards customer cars in 2016 when the major names will provide all the cars on the grid," explains Paul Weaver of The Guardian. "Before that it seems certain Ferrari and Red Bull will run three cars next year to fill the holes left by Marussia and Caterham, who have fallen into administration."
The reason? As is usual for F1 it appears to be financial. "The smaller teams are convinced a decision has been made to make F1 slimmer and more profitable before it is floated on the stock exchange," says Weaver.