Why losing to Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi qualifying was the perfect outcome for Lewis Hamilton
Qualifying behind his Mercedes team-mate at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix might just be the best thing to happen to Lewis Hamilton.
Rather than squabble over the lead with Nico Rosberg during the opening laps – risking a collision and the championship – the Brit can fulfil his mission by finishing second to clinch the world title. Why would he even contemplate doing anything else?
The chief threat to his title ambitions is an avoidable bash with Rosberg. Qualifying second means he steers clear of having a Mercedes-sized blur in his mirrors and can safely navigate the start without worrying about his team-mate's attempts to unsettle him.
"1st step is done. hope the next will follow. What a car! Thanks for your support out there. Amazing. #AbuDhabiGPpic.twitter.com/j7Cx7066xj— Nico Rosberg (@nico_rosberg) November 22, 2014"
Given the German constructors are so far clear of the rest of the field, Hamilton should simply slump around in second – matching Williams duo Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa – and pick up the 36 points required to win his first overall crown since 2008.
It won’t be the most glamorous of victories – and a far cry from his last-gasp overtake of Timo Glock in Interlagos six years ago – but doing anything else would be absurd. He’s claimed his 10 race wins, deserves the title and can win it with a sensible drive rather than leading some pride-fuelled charge after his team-mate.
Mercedes’ domination was evident again during qualifying. The contrast between Hamilton’s shaky lap and Bottas’ flawless effort was huge – and yet it was the former who grabbed second on the grid. The Brit has no need to fear the other teams in Sunday’s finale.
In the scorching UAE climate, Hamilton needs to nurse his car through the heat to avoid a heart-breaking technical failure. The easier he takes it in second place, the less likely that is to occur.
Rosberg transformed his victorious post-qualifying press conference into a motivational one-on-one seminar for Bottas – even offering the Finn a spa package ahead of the showdown. For the German knows that only a miraculous stormer from the Williams driver can hand him the title without a Hamilton failure. And it’ll take more than a spa date to make that happen.
The sad truth for fans hoping for a thrilling decider is that we won’t see one. Either Hamilton will win the championship on merit, or Rosberg will win it by default.
Ben Snowball - @BenSnowball