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Rosberg Sets Stage For Silver Arrows Shootout

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 10 2014

The 2014 F1 World Champion will be driving a Mercedes.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writter

Mercedes AMG teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will take their spirited intramural squabble for the 2014 World Driving Championship to the season-finale at Abu Dhabi, while attempting to answer Formula One’s question du jour.

Is it more difficult to compete for a championship against your teammate or a driver from a rival team?

“That’s a difficult one,” Rosberg said after his victory in Sunday’s Grande Premio do Brazil at Interlagos pulled him to within 17 points of Hamilton. “I don’t know if it’s…I think it’s the same, you know? Lewis is a really strong competitor, and OK, he has the same car as me, that has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that the car is the same, so that, for example, today I know that he didn’t have more top speed than me so I know exactly what he has.

“It’s difficult to answer, but of course it is a great challenge. It’s a great battle, fantastic also that the team is always letting us race, letting us battle, and also treating us 100 percent equally at all times. That’s really important. We’re both very lucky to be in that situation and that’s awesome.”

Pole-sitter Rosberg shaved seven points off the 24-point advantage Hamilton fashioned via his victory one week earlier in the third annual United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. The season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina on Nov. 23 will pay double points – that’s 50 for a victory. If Rosberg wins, Hamilton would need to finish second in order to clinch his second World Championship. Doing so against his Silver Arrows teammate, Hamilton suggested, would be…absolutely smashing!

“I would imagine it’s probably harder (racing a teammate) with the same car because only you can make the difference,” said Hamilton, the 2008 World Champion. “Whereas when you’re racing another team, there will be races where one is quicker, the other is quicker as you saw in the championship with me and Felipe (Massa in ‘08). There were tracks where he was quicker and there were tracks that I was quicker at. It’s a different championship, for sure.”

Rosberg set the pace around the 2.6-mile/15-turn Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace layout through the first round of pit stops. But Hamilton was closing as the German pitted for a second time. Hamilton set a new fastest lap of the race, but rather than pit immediately stayed out and locked the rear wheels going into Turn 4. The resulting half-spin dropped Hamilton 7.4-seconds behind Rosberg. Hamilton’s relentless pace closed the gap to less than two seconds by time of their respective final pit stops on the 50th and 51st laps but the Brit could not overhaul Rosberg over the final 20 laps.

“Obviously, I had a big mistake in the mid-part of the race but otherwise the car was fantastic, the team did an amazing job and it was a great race with Nico,” said Hamilton, a 10-time winner this season whose five-race winning streak was snapped by a determined Rosberg. “I think ultimately it cost me the win, yeah. I mean, I was much quicker up until that point and on that lap I’d gone a second quicker whilst Nico pitted and I thought I was going to pit at the end of that lap so I used everything of the tires. The next lap, I had nothing left. Either way, at the end of the day, I made a mistake, I locked the rears into Turn 4 and with the under-rotation, just spun me around. Second time it’s happened this weekend. So, no-one’s fault but mine. Still, great result for the team. Nico drove really well – great, defensive, no mistakes – and ultimately we got a 1-2. I really was pushing right to the checkered flag, which is what motor racing’s all about. So I really enjoyed it.”

Rosberg and Hamilton were joined on the podium by native Brazilian Felipe Massa, whose third-place finish for Williams Martini Racing was his first podium of 2014. Massa overcame a five-second stop-and-go penalty when his speed limiter failed to work on his first pit stop. Later, Massa also lost time when he pulled into the McLaren pit stall during his third stop, mistaking the uniforms worn by mechanics waiting for Jenson Button for his own Williams crew.

“Everything happened in my race today,” Massa said. “So, I think the most important thing was that the pace was there, the car was quick. I’ve been so happy with the car during the whole weekend. The car was so competitive – unfortunately not enough to beat these (Mercedes) guys here, which is winning all the races. I’m so happy with the race, not happy with my mistakes today.

“It was really a fantastic race, and these people (fans)… they’re still here, singing and screaming. It’s amazing. The whole energy that I had this weekend, it’s difficult to explain. Difficult to explain the emotion _ so thank you very much for all of our Torcida (fan club) that was pushing the whole weekend, every day. It was amazing.” 

Rosberg, who posted his fifth victory of the season, led Mercedes to its 11th 1-2 result to break the record set by McLaren teammates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988.

“It’s fantastic,” Rosberg said. “The team is doing such an awesome job, all-in-all. Just keeping on pushing, development rate through the year also. It’s so great to be a part of that movement. And you can feel it in the team. Everybody is really, really pumped and just fully head-down focused all the way. Because it’s also… it’s a change now. We used to be always hunting and now we’re the hunted, and that’s a big change. It’s great to see how the team has adapted and not slackened off because that is always difficult, when you get to the front to then stay there. It seems at the moment that we’re really going strong and that’s fantastic.”

Rosberg added it was important for him to “just improve” after finishing second to Hamilton at COTA. “I learned from Austin and did better so that’s a big step in the right direction,” Rosberg said. “One race too late but, you know, there’s still all to play for. Now I’m just hoping for (Abu Dhabi) and need to try and keep this going now. Really feeling good in the car and everything.

“And it was a great race with Lewis. He had a great race too, just behind me all the time. I always needed to make sure that the gap was always such that there was no chance for him to go for the overtake _ unlike Austin. And managed to do that, so that was good.”

Hamilton said his Mercedes F1 W05 truly is the best F1 car he has driven – and he intends to again drive the wheels off it at Abu Dhabi. “I’m going to drive pretty much the same,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully, I’ll improve. Today I lost a little bit of time but otherwise it’s everything to play for in the last race.”

FIA Formula 1 Brazilian Grand Prix results after 71 laps/190 miles around the 2.6-mile/15-turn Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine, laps completed, and time/gap:

1. (6) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 71, 1:30:02.555-seconds

2. (44) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 71, plus-1.4-seconds

3. (19) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Williams Martini Racing/Mercedes, 71, plus-41.0-seconds

4. (22) Jenson Button, Great Britain, McLaren/Mercedes, 71, plus-48.6-seconds

5. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 71, plus-51.4-seconds

6. (14) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 71, plus-61.9-seconds

7. (7) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Scuderia Ferrari, 71, plus-63.7-seconds

8. (27) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Sahara Force India F1 Team/Mercedes, 71, plus-63.9-seconds

9. (20) Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, McLaren/Mercedes, 71, plus-70.0-seconds

10. (77) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams Martini Racing/Mercedes, 70, plus-1 lap

11. (26) Danil Kvyat, Russia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Renault, 70, plus-1 lap

12. (13) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Lotus F1 Team, 70, plus-1 lap

13. (25) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Renault, 70, plus-1 lap

14. (21) Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 70, plus-1 lap

15. (11) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sahara Force India F1 Team/Mercedes, 70, plus-1 lap

16. (99) Adrian Sutil, Germany, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 70, plus-1 lap

17. (8) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, 63, power unit

18. (3) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 39, front suspension

Note _ Kvyat qualified P14, dropped seven grid places (remainder of engine-change penalty carried over from previous round, United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas); Perez qualified P17, dropped seven (causing collision at COTA).

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 10 2014
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