ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton could be only days away from his second Formula One world title but the Mercedes driver is wary of double trouble in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The Briton leads German teammate Nico Rosberg by 17 points going into Sunday’s season-ending ‘Duel in the Desert’, which means he does not have to win the race to take the crown even with an unprecedented double points on offer.
Second place at Yas Marina would do, even if Rosberg were to triumph, but the scoring potential and shadow of a mechanical failure or race incident still cast a heavy shadow.
“There is zero comfort going into the next race because it’s 50 points to gain,” said Hamilton, who took his 2008 title with a last gasp overtake when all seemed lost.
“In the last race you never know what is going to happen, so I‘m going to the last race to win.”
Sunday’s double points could be a one-off, with even commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone now against continuing the idea he pushed through, but in other respects it should be more of the same.
Mercedes have already secured both titles and finished one-two a record 11 times this season, and are now chasing a record 16th win of the 19 race campaign.
The nightmare for the team, and particularly Hamilton who has won 10 races to Rosberg’s five, is mechanical failure.
To many fans, it would turn the championship into a travesty if he loses out that way.
“Clearly Lewis breaking down would have a massive impact on his championship attempt. And it would, for me personally, be a nightmare,” said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.
“We need to provide him with the most reliable car and we want the championship to end in a straight and fair battle and not by one of them breaking down.”
While the focus is on the title scrap between the two Mercedes rivals, whose relationship has been under the microscope all year, other battles will be fought behind them in what amounts to a last roll of the dice for some.
Red Bull are sure of second place while Williams look set to finish ahead of Ferrari for the first time since they took their last title in 1997.
For Ferrari, the sport’s most successful and glamorous team, it is the last chance to stave off their first winless season since 1993.
Sauber are also staring at their first season without a single point while Caterham, in administration and with a skeleton crew, are hoping to do enough to convince a buyer to rescue them.
The race will be quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel’s farewell to Red Bull and could also be the final appearance in Formula One of 2009 world champion Jenson Button, Hamilton’s former McLaren team mate.
McLaren, who end a long relationship with Mercedes and start a new partnership with Honda after Abu Dhabi, are expected to sign Fernando Alonso from Ferrari and have yet to decide whether to keep Button or Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen.
Other drivers possibly preparing for their final curtain call are Sauber’s German Adrian Sutil and Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, both surplus to requirement at the Swiss team.
Editing by Greg Stutchbury