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Rosberg Hoping For Double Trouble In F1 Finale

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 23 2014

Double-points format could decide 2014 F1 championship.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

As per Bernie Ecclestone’s script, Mercedes AMG teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will launch their bids for the 2014 Formula One World Driving Championship from the front row in Sunday’s season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

So, why was Valtteri Bottas fielding so many post-qualifying questions Saturday evening at Yas Marina Circuit? Bottas, of Williams/Mercedes, qualified third on the 20-car grid and depending upon how aggressive – or cautious – Hamilton attacks his teammate flying into Turn 1, Bottas could become a difference-maker in an event paying double points down the bloody line.

“I offered Valtteri … I’m paying (for) a wellness night (for him Saturday) – a spa session, all-inclusive, hoping that he can be in extra special form and do the impossible tomorrow,” Rosberg joked after touring the 3.451-mile/21-turn layout in 1-minute, 40.480-seconds. Hamilton’s hot lap of 1:40.866-seconds was 0.0386-seconds slower than his teammate, who is faced with overcoming a 17-point deficit. Rosberg, who bagged his third consecutive pole, now will have 55 laps to do so.

On cue, the controversial double-points format will pay 50 for a victory and 36 for second, rather than the standard-issue 25/18. The format was instituted after Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing ran away with the 2013 World Championship. Even if Rosberg scores his sixth win of 2014, Hamilton would need to finish second in order to clinch his second World Championship.

“Well, the mindset is that I need to get the job done and continue on the sort of form that I had in Brazil in the race,” said Rosberg, who shaved seven points off his deficit to Hamilton with his victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 9. “I’m sure it’s going to be a great battle between the two of us. Of course I hope for more than that – not just the win but some sort of help from Lewis, or anything.”

Enter Bottas, who indicated he does not intend to be a spectator to the Mercedes Twins. “No, not at all,” said Bottas, a native of Finland who will be joined in Row 2 by teammate Felipe Massa of Brazil. “I think it’s kind of cool if I can be part of something. It’s nice. Obviously for me the maximum I can get at the moment is fourth place in the championship and the main thing for us as a team is definitely securing the third place. That’s our target and to achieve that, our goal (Sunday) is finish as high as possible where we can. So no different race to any other for me.

“As we’ve seen before, Mercedes is normally having a bit more advantage on Sundays than Saturdays, so it could be difficult. But if something is going to happen and if we have the pace there is no doubt we are going to try to move forward.”

As has been their form during a season that has seen them combine for 15 victories, neither Rosberg (five wins) nor Hamilton (10 wins) would be drawn into a podium debate on Turn 1 strategy. “Yes, that’s going to be interesting, as always,” said Rosberg, a native of Germany. “But I’m on the clean side I think, not sure. Maybe none of them are really clean, not sure, but anyways I have the advantage from pole, so that should be OK.

“Of course, Valtteri said he got his perfect lap together, so there wasn’t anything else in that. It would have been great if somehow there could have been a Williams between the two of us, but that can always happen tomorrow. For sure, starting first is a great place to be and it should be a good start.”

Asked if he thought the driver making the fewest mistakes Sunday would emerge as champion, Hamilton said, “I don’t know. I don’t know how many mistakes Nico made.”

Asked how he would approach Turn 1, Hamilton said, “Same as every time.”

Asked again how many risks he might take at the start to keep Bottas behind him, Hamilton said, “I don’t know. I’m looking forwards, so just drive the same as I always drive.”

Rosberg said that if those comments sound as if Hamilton, the 2008 World Champion, is feeling the pressure…perhaps he has gained an advantage above and beyond P1.

“Pressure is one of the hopes that I have,” Rosberg said. “If Lewis feels the pressure and here makes a mistake as a result, a bit like today – I haven’t seen it – but if you’re saying that and a bit like Brazil and that’s the sort of opportunities that I’m looking for and I’m trying to push for. I push flat-out, all the time to try and keep the level extremely high and that’s all I can do really and try and go for the win and keep the pressure on.”

Four-time/reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel will join Scuderia Ferrari in 2015, the first season of a three-year deal with Formula One’s most glamorous team.

As rumored for over a month, Vettel will pair with 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Finland while two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso of Spain is expected to move to McLaren/Honda.

“Scuderia Ferrari has decided to put its faith in the youngest multiple champion in the history of Formula One,” Team Principal Marco Mattiacci said in a release from Ferrari’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy. “In Formula One terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us, as we aim to be frontrunners again as soon as possible.

“With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write together a new winning chapter in the history of Ferrari.”

Vettel, 27, made his F1 debut in 2007 at the Indianapolis Grand Prix and completed his first full season with Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2008, notching the first of his 39 career victories in Monza, Italy. The German graduated to Red Bull Racing in 2009, scoring four victories and setting the table for a string of four consecutive World Championships from 2010-13.

“The next stage of my Formula One career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari and for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true,” Vettel said in the Ferrari statement. “When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the ‘Red Car’ was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honor to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari.

“I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means, when I took my first win at Monza in 2008, with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello. The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport and I am extremely motivated to help the team get back to the top. I will put my heart and soul into making it happen.”

Veteran motorsports engineer Matt Borland has been named vice president of technology for Haas F1 Team and Stewart-Haas Racing. Borland will serve as liaison between the organizations _ Haas F1 Team in the FIA Formula One World Championship and SHR in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Haas F1 Team will make its Formula One debut in 2016, becoming the first American-led team in 30 years. Stewart-Haas Racing is a four-car NASCAR team featuring newly crowned Cup champion Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, three-time champ Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Borland will oversee the transfer of Formula One technology to Stewart-Haas Racing while providing Haas F1 Team with his engineering resources. Concurrently, Borland will serve as a gatekeeper, ensuring the privacy of proprietary information respective to each team.

“With his knowledge and work ethic, Matt has helped build Stewart-Haas Racing into the team it is today, and as we build Haas F1 Team and prepare it for 2016 his expertise has already proven to be incredibly useful,” said Joe Custer, chief operating officer, Haas F1 Team and executive vice president, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Matt’s talent as an engineer and manager are augmented by a sterling reputation that is beyond reproach.”

Borland joined Haas CNC Racing, precursor to Stewart-Haas Racing, in May 2007. He has served in numerous capacities, including crew chief, competition director, technical director and, most recently, vice president of engineering, where he oversaw all of the team’s technical initiatives and R&D projects. Prior to coming to NASCAR, Borland was race engineer for Mark Blundell at PacWest Racing in Champ Car. Before that, Borland was at Pi Research, an engineering organization specializing in motorsports.

“I’m an engineer at-heart, so I’m always interested in building things,” said Borland, who in 1994 earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University (formerly the General Motors Institute). “It’s been very satisfying to help build Stewart-Haas Racing from a two-car team to a four-car team that’s always capable of winning championships.

“Now I have the best of both worlds, as I can continue to help improve Stewart-Haas Racing while building Haas F1 Team. We work smart and efficiently at Stewart-Haas Racing and there are best practices we can apply to Haas F1 Team. Eventually, both organizations will make each other better, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, November 23 2014
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