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Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg: How the Next Month Could Play

November 09, 2016

- Grant Whittington

While Nico Rosberg may remain the clear F1 Drivers Championship favourite, defending champion Lewis Hamilton has at least given himself a fighting chance of retaining his title in the last two races. After a run of five races without a win that left him clinging to his title by the skin of his fingertips, Hamilton has produced two relatively effortless victories in the US and Mexico to maintain hope of a dramatic and largely unexpected comeback.

Hamilton has clawed back 14 points during those races, closing the seemingly unassailable 33 point margin that emerged in the wake of the Japanese Grand Prix (when the British driver crept over the finishing line in third place). Now 19 points adrift, Hamilton knows that victories in Brazil and Abu Dhabi will give him a chance of overhauling his teammate Rosberg, provided that the German finishes outside the top two in at least one of these races).

Hamilton v Rosberg: Who Needs What to be Successful?

Herein lies the issue for Hamilton, whose season has been littered with bad luck, poor decision making and incredible inconsistency. In contrast, Rosberg’s season has been an exercise in sustained excellence, with the German finishing in the top three on no less than 14 occasions. Rosberg has also won one more race than Hamilton (nine as opposed to eight), while Hamilton has endured sustained losing sequences both at the start and during the middle portion of the season,

This stacks the odds firmly in the Rosberg’s favour, as he only needs to drive conservatively and secure consecutive, second place finishes in the final two races to lift the title. Even though Hamilton can earn 50 points by winning these events, Rosberg would win 36 with consecutive runners-up positions and therefore edge the Drivers’ Championship by just five points. For Hamilton to win, he would realistically need to win both races while Rosberg would be required to finish third or lower in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

The question that remains, however, is whether the title can be won in Brazil on 13th November? The short answer is yes, as a Rosberg win in Sao Paulo would extend the German’s lead to a minimum of 26 points, meaning that he would claim the championship regardless of what happened in Dubai. Similarly, the failure of Hamilton to secure a point or finish in Brazil would enable Rosberg to claim the title with any kind of placed finish, as in effect the German only needs to extend his current lead by seven points to be successful.

How Could the Last Two Races Play Out?

Given this and the consistency levels of the two drivers this season, there are two clear observations to be made. The first is that Rosberg is the clear favourite, regardless of the momentum that Hamilton has built in the last two races. The second is that we are likely to see the Brits’ challenge continue until the final race at least, as we should expect both to be on the podium at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Despite this, the last two races are likely to see Rosberg adopt a safety-first approach as he looks to cruise home and secure at least one second and one third place finish to secure the title. This will leave Hamilton not only having to push himself to the limit to secure the two victories that he so desperately needs, but the Englishman must also hope that Rosberg experiences the type of engine failure that has blighted his own season this time around.

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