Nico Rosberg ups the pressure on Lewis Hamilton

nico rosberg and lewis hamilton

Nico Rosberg is aiming to pressurise Lewis Hamilton into a title-costing mistake in the Abu Dhabi GP as the German refuses to give up on the World Championship to his Mercedes team-mate.

With double points on offer in the season finale, Rosberg will be crowned champion if he wins the race and Hamilton finishes lower than second.

It’s a doomsday scenario which sounded unlikely on Friday when Hamilton dominated practice, but the Englishman, provoked into pushing his tyres too hard by Rosberg’s fearsome pace, twice fluffed his lines in qualifying’s top-ten shootout to leave the German holding the high ground for Sunday’s race.

More significantly, Rosberg will also start Sunday’s race holding the initiative for the final installment of their season-long duel for the title – and, as he tried to ratchet up the pressure on Hamilton, he wasn’t shy in playing a few mind games on Saturday evening too.

“I need to keep the pressure up and the performance level as high as possible to try and make Lewis make some mistakes – that’s the only opportunity l have. It’s been working out lately, he spun out in Brazil and today in qualifying we saw a few bits and pieces not going his way,” Rosberg told Sky Sports F1.

Later told of Rosberg’s remarks, Hamilton responded: “I don’t really pay much attention to him. Today, I think in mistakes I made the same amount as him. He actually had to do an extra lap on the actual race tyre, which hopefully will have an effect tomorrow.

“There have been very, very few mistakes during the year so I am not worried. Of course Nico is trying everything possible in his head to come up with some kind of way of dealing with things — that is how he deals with it.

“Me? I just keep it to myself and do my talking on the track.”

Despite his errors in qualifying – a regular feature of the 2014 season – Hamilton will line up second on the grid, a position which, if held at the conclusion of the season finale, would be sufficient to secure the Englishman his second world title. No wonder, then, that Rosberg is keen on making friends elsewhere on the grid.

“The Williams is the best chance l have,” he acknowledged of the cars which start on row two. “It’s very difficult to overtake at this track and if Bottas can get in front at the start then that would be a great chance.”

An even more intriguing spectacle – albeit one not for the fainthearted – would see Rosberg and Hamilton going wheel-to-wheel into the first corner. Would Hamilton risk it? Probably. “My approach will be the same as always,” he bullishly told reporters in the post-qualy press conference. But note the subtle change in tune from the Englishman for Mercedes’ press release: “It’s not my style to settle for second place but we’ll need to decide how to play it.”

Faced with the dilemma of sensibly driving for second or sticking with the approach which has inspired his title charge, it seems Hamilton has finally resolved to rely on his instincts.

“Naturally, you want to be on pole position, but l am happy to be in the fight,” he told Sky F1. “I’m in the second-best place to start from so there are lots of positives to take from today and from Friday’s long runs. This is a track where it is perhaps a bit better to follow than it was in Brazil so I’m not unhappy, I’m happy to be here and in the fight for the World Championship

“You have tons of plans in mind and you just wait to see which one works out.”

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