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Analysis: Why 2016 F1 title showdown could break painful new ground for Lewis Hamilton

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Analysis: Why 2016 F1 title showdown could break painful new ground for Lewis Hamilton
Nov 16, 2016, 9:29 PM

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell all suffered from it; but it's never afflicted any of the world champions currently in the F1 field and...

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell all suffered from it; but it's never afflicted any of the world champions currently in the F1 field and it's ground Lewis Hamilton would dearly love not to break.

Hamilton heads into the 2016 Formula 1 season finale with a 12-point deficit to his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg despite a dominant win in last weekend’s rain-hit Brazilian Grand Prix, but this year the odds suggest that he will experience seeing a team mate win a world championship in the same car.

Of the five champions on the current grid Hamilton, Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Button and Sebastian Vettel, none have ever experienced losing a championship to a teammate – although Hamilton and Alonso came close in 2007 as the McLaren team became embroiled in scandal and subterfuge over allegations of industrial espionage against Ferrari.

Hamilton has also never gone into an F1 title decider chasing a team mate on points.

The Briton was mathematically in the hunt at the final race in 2010, but needed all of the other three contenders to slip up – whereas he has previously been in Rosberg’s position of defending a lead on three occasions.

Hamilton has also seen such situations go both ways. In 2007 he went into the last race in Brazil with a four point lead over his then teammate Fernando Alonso and a seven point cushion over Kimi Raikkonen, but ended up losing out to the Ferrari driver one point.

Brazil GP 2007

In 2008 he had a seven-point advantage over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa but he only beat the Brazilian driver to the title by a single point after a dramatic race that swung in his favour at the last moment when he passed the slick-shod Toyota of Timo Glock on the slippery run into Interlagos’ penultimate corner.

When he won his first title with Mercedes in 2014 he arrived in Abu Dhabi with a 17-point cushion over Rosberg, but had the unique threat of the double points on offer hanging over that race. On that day Hamilton won while Rosberg faded to a lapped 14th with an ERS problem.

Next week, the two Mercedes drivers will do battle for the final time this year, again at the Yas Marina circuit, and Hamilton will face a second new scenario: he has never lost a title to another driver using the same car.

Abu Dhabi start

Throughout his junior single seater, Hamilton only failed to win a title in two full seasons – the 2002 Formula Renault 2.0 series and the 2004 Formula 3 Euroseries – and drivers from different teams won both of those championships. Hamilton also claimed both of those titles in the season after his rookie campaigns.

In single seater motorsport, a driver’s first benchmark is their teammate. It has been the case throughout the history of F1 and many of the sport’s most memorable moments have come from bitter inter-team rivalries.

Seeing Rosberg take the title, one that Hamilton has owned for the last two seasons, will be especially painful and harder for him to accept because they are teammates, as Jenson Button reportedly alluded to in media gathering in Brazil last week.

Fernando Alonso Lewis Hamilton 2007

Hamilton can rightly point to the mechanical failures he suffered in the early part of the year, his engine grid penalties at Spa and his power unit failure in Malaysia as the reasons why he is currently behind Rosberg in the title fight, but the Briton appears to be accepting that such things are part of F1 and always have been.

But what continues to frustrate him is the run of luck Rosberg has enjoyed this season. Aside from Hamilton’s reliability woes – and Rosberg has had his own, albeit at less crucial times – the German driver has benefitted from Ferrari not swapping Vettel’s tyres during the red flag in Australia, Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton tangling in Bahrain, recovering to the podium after being hit being spun around in Malaysia, the Virtual Safety car coming to his aid in Austin, and not getting damage in the Turn 1 incident with Max Verstappen in Mexico.

Max Verstappen Daniel Ricciardo

And as pointed out in these pages, Red Bull helped Rosberg further in Brazil by not splitting its driver’s strategies and twice pitting them for intermediates during the consistently wet race in Brazil. Although Verstappen charged back to finish third, he had been running ahead of the German driver and behind Hamilton before his second stop for inters.

Sometimes that is just the way it goes in F1. Rosberg’s championship must have flashed before his eyes when the rear of his car slid out from behind him on the run up from the Juncao corner two thirds of the way through last weekend’s disrupted event, but he held on and went on to finish the race behind his teammate.

Rosberg now only needs to finish third to claim his first F1 world title 34 years after his father Keke achieved that feat in 1982, and, despite closing in with three consecutive wins, Hamilton will be the hunter rather than the hunted heading to Abu Dhabi this time around.

XPB.cc Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton

“[It’s] unbelievable, when will it end?” Hamilton asked when questioned after the race in Brazil about his teammate’s run of good fortune this season. “Red Bull made such a big mistake with that call. Verstappen still had a great race and got back up to third, but it would be good if they made some better calls at the next race.

“I am in an awkward position going into the last race. It doesn’t really make a big difference if I go and drive the same way again, because I have already lost so much through the year. [But] I can’t give up, because you never know what can happen.”

Who do you think will win the 2016 F1 drivers’ world championship? Has your position changed in recent weeks? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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Series Formula 1
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Teams McLaren Shop Now