The equation is pretty simple. Nico Rosberg heads into the final two races of the 2016 Formula One World Championship needing knowing that a victory at Interlagos this weekend will see him claim a first championship title over long-term rival and Mercedes AMG Petronas team mate, Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton, who since an engine failure and off-colour weekend in Malaysia and Japan respectively has reigned in his stablemate’s points advantage, will still be relieved of his crown by five points even with victory in the final two contests this weekend [Brazil] and in Abu Dhabi on November 27th.
The Brit took a controlled win last time out at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez by over eight seconds from Rosberg, whilst pandemonium ensued behind over the dispute for the final podium slot between the Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Verstappen crossed the line third, Vettel went up to the podium to take the trophy, and penalties for the pair of them eventually handed Ricciardo the silverware. Vettel was also lucky to escape unpunished for telling FIA Race Director, Charlie Whiting, to “f**k off” during the race in Mexico City, having issued apologies both to Whiting and to FIA President, Jean Todt, who took a dim view on his conduct.
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Place, nestled in the heart of Sao Paulo, offers a little over 2.6 miles of changing gradient, heavy braking zones and low-speed corners. Whilst Mercedes will ultimately hold it’s straightline speed advantage by virtue of it’s power unit, the Red Bull has proven to be one of the best packages aerodynamically thus far, and seems the most likely challenger to the Silver Arrows.
Further back, the battle for fourth in the Constructor’s Championship stands nicely poised by nine points between leading independent outfits Sahara Force India and Williams Martini Racing. Williams have this week confirmed 18-year old Canadian Lance Stroll as one of their drivers for next season, and is expected to join alongside Finn Valterri Bottas.
An intriguing plot point is also developing over fifth in the Driver’s Championship; namely the one-point gap between 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen. The Dutch hot shot only claimed his first Grand Prix victory back in Barcelona in May, but now stands a chance of out-scoring one of the sport’s elder statesmen despite having five fewer races in competitive machinery, with his previous Toro Rosso chariot crippled by a lack of engine development in recent months.
Hamilton equalled Alain Prost’s total of Grand Prix victories (51) last time out at Mexico; if he is to equal the Frenchmen on four titles by the end of the season he will need Rosberg to crumble under pressure. Interlagos, with changeable weather patterns and a more challenging circuit than that of Yas Marina, seems likely to be his best chance.