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Title contenders play subtle psychological battle ahead of F1 showdown in Abu Dhabi

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Title contenders play subtle psychological battle ahead of F1 showdown in Abu Dhabi
Nov 24, 2016, 3:00 PM

Lewis Hamilton said that he was particularly pleased with his performance this year in tricky conditions in Monaco, the subtext being that this was...

Lewis Hamilton said that he was particularly pleased with his performance this year in tricky conditions in Monaco, the subtext being that this was one of Nico Rosberg's few off days this season, while Rosberg highlighted Singapore as his high, a race where Hamilton was off-form.

The psychological battle between the two championship rivals was in full swing today at Yas Marina Circuit ahead of the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

It was subtle and delicate stuff and the game was clear for all to see. It's unlikely that any of the messages will have cut through and undermined Rosberg's confidence going into the weekend and also doubtful whether Hamilton will have been chastened by any of Rosberg's lines.

Rosberg, Hamilton

Hamilton said he would have won Brazil by over 30 seconds if the Safety Cars hadn't intervened. He highlighted the series of engine related problems that blighted his early season and robbed him of a win in Malaysia, he also made some loaded references to his mechanics being changed and challenges Rosberg to tell the media what reason Mercedes had given for the chance.

Rosberg deflected the conspiracy talk, by describing the mechanic change as being about team harmony, to avoid silos within the team, thereby throwing Hamilton's comments into relief.

The championship leader said he arrived in Abu Dhabi in a particularly relaxed mindset after some enjoyable time at home with his wife and baby daughter. Hamilton said he had enjoyed last weekend in Los Angeles with Serena Williams.

He also said that he and his team of engineers and mechanics 'have worked the hardest this year' and yet they don't find themselves in the position they should be in as a result of that hard work.

Rosberg leads by 12 points and so needs only a podium to be champion if Hamilton wins the race. He has more paths to success than Hamilton.

Hamilton can only take care of his side and the title outcome is out of his hands. So he was in a relaxed a philosophical mood and unusually he had a lot to say, even in the FIA press conference. He even went so far as to say that he was enjoying the conference, it being only himself and Rosberg who were in it.

Rosberg, Hamilton

Rosberg was relatively quiet and let Hamilton talk. He repeated his mantra that he takes each race as it comes and goes into Sunday planning to win the race from pole. It is not worth him thinking through any alternative scenarios. He will not contemplate the 'what-ifs' that play on a sportsman's mind when facing a title showdown.

"For me what’s important is now. And that’s worked for me until now, and that’s why I’m in this position, fighting for the Championship right here, because of that approach. So I’ll stick with that, continue and focus on a race win this weekend. That’s it," he said.

Another subtle but unmistakable line was Hamilton ramping up the pressure on Rosberg by reminding him that he's running out of chances to win the championship and therefore if he doesn't get it done this year he may never have a chance again.

"The further we go on in our age, the less championship fights we’ll have, or opportunities we have, so naturally you want to utilise every single one," Hamilton said "But if I was to look back on the season, I would mostly look… if there was anything to be negative about it would obviously be cars failing in certain places for… a car that just wouldn’t stop through testing with the same engine to then have the issues we’ve had."

The psychological warfare was subtle but fascinating this afternoon, meanwhile in the Mercedes garage at the end of the afternoon team boss Toto Wolff called together the entire team for an address, to congratulate them on their third double championship and to help them relax and feel united ahead of what is bound to be a tense weekend.

The greatest fear of all the mechanics, engineers and management is that a mechanical failure for either car determines the outcome of the season finale and the championship.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now