With a third straight Brazilian Grand Prix title on Sunday, Nico Rosberg can match the feat of his famous father by winning the Formula One championship. Standing in his way is Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, the two-time defending champion.
If Hamilton wins on the hilly course in Sao Paulo, the season title will be decided in the final race in two weeks in Abu Dhabi.
“I love the track,” Rosberg said Thursday, 34 years after his father Keke Rosberg won his only F1 season title. “It feels good and I’ve always gone well here.”
Then, the German driver offered a caution.
“At the same time, this year we all start from zero,” Rosberg said. “Those past wins are not going to help me get a win this weekend. We all start from the same place.”
Beyond the victory, there are several scenarios under which Rosberg could claim the season title, even if he doesn’t win the race. That depends on how far behind him Hamilton finishes.
Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 19 points, can keep the title chase alive in Brazil but he can only claim the championship – it would be his fourth – in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a real challenge to come here and try to win for the first time,” Hamilton said. “So that’s my goal, and there’s nothing really to lose.”
The two can expect little quarter. They should also expect a wet track with weekend rain in the forecast.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, third in the season standings but without a chance for the big prize, said he would “not stay out of the fight.”
“I think the championship will work out how it should work out,” Ricciardo said. “I don’t think we should assist in the outcome. Just because they (Rosberg and Hamilton) are fighting doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to overtake if’s there’s a door open.”
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who won four straight season titles between 2010-13, said others needed to “respect the fact” that the two Mercedes drivers have had the best seasons. He, however, did not say he would back off.
Rosberg said he was expecting everyone to give their best.
“Of course, you’re not going to take it easy just because one guy is fighting for the championship,” Rosberg said.
Sunday also marks the last race in Brazil for Felipe Massa, who is leaving F1 after this season. Massa never won a season title, but he got painfully close.
In Brazil in the final race of the 2008 season, Massa won the race but lost the season title by one point to Hamilton when the Englishman overtook on the final lap to finish fifth – getting the point he needed to edge Massa.
“I think it will be a very special weekend for me, for my last home race _ a place where I grew up,” Massa said. “This is a place where I remember I was in the grandstand watching and supporting Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet.”
Senna and Piquet each won three F1 season titles.
“There’s no doubt he’s one of the most talented drivers on the grid,” Vettel said of Massa, who raced for 15 seasons. “But apart from that, he’s a great person. He’s the kind of guy you look at and you smile – because he’s just smiling from the inside. It’s his weekend.”
It will be, except for Rosberg and Hamilton.