ABU DHABI (AFP) – The strain and tension hung in the air of a crowded room at the Yas Marina circuit on Thursday when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg faced the media ahead of their decisive double points showdown in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The two barely made eye contact after a posed photograph and handshake. The body language spoke more candidly than their answers.
Hamilton, who leads the title race by 17 points after a strained and sometimes acrimonious title duel with his Mercedes team-mate, kept his responses short, but sweet.
The 2008 champion needs only to finish second, if Rosberg wins, to take his second drivers’ crown.
Asked if he expected a clean fight without the need for any team instructions, the 29-year-old Briton said: “Yes. I don’t really know what else to say. You always go into the weekend believing it’s going to be the case.
“No, we won’t talk about it. We don’t need to. It’s been discussed at the beginning of the season and several times through the season and particularly after Spa again. We’re not children. We should know what is wrong and what is right.”
Answering the same question, German Rosberg hinted at his unspoken fear that Hamilton could take the title by resorting to undesirable tactics, including a collision.
“Lewis can do something to keep it clean, which is to drive clean himself,” he said. “So, it’s not like he can’t do something…”
Almost imperceptibly, Hamilton winced at his team-mate’s barbed answer. Rosberg needs to enjoy one of the best races of his life and see Hamilton suffer a nightmare if he is to join his father Keke the Formula One’s pantheon of champions.
Rosberg senior took the 1982 title after winning just one race. His son has won five this year, to Hamilton’s ten, but ended the Englishman’s run of five in succession with his victory in Brazil two weekends ago.
“Of course, I need to do what I can to put pressure on Lewis,” said Rosberg. “He made a mistake in Brazil, so there’s a chance. I’ll do what I can. It’s an intense weekend, for sure…. yes, but I prefer not to use the word pressure.”