F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014: Nico Rosberg turns up heat on Lewis Hamilton in title showdown

German stays cool to claim pole and put the pressure on team-mate in race for title

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The Independent Online

Lewis Hamilton is never more dangerous than when he has the thousand-yard stare and monosyllabic delivery of a man annoyed by failing to perform as well as he expected. With the World Championship at stake, Hamilton was understandably tense after finishing second in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to the only man who can beat him to the title – his Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg.

Controversially, double points are at stake here, but settling for second – which would be enough to give the Briton the title – is hardly Hamilton’s style. He wants an 11th win of the season. To do that at the Yas Marina Circuit, where a man of Fernando Alonso’s towering talent was unable to get past Vitaly Petrov, the Russian journeyman, in his title fight back in 2010, he ideally needed to start from pole.

But, for the 11th time this year, Rosberg beat him to that. When the chips were down it was Hamilton who couldn’t get it together, Rosberg who could.

 

“The car was fantastic and I really enjoyed it,” Hamilton said, looking anything but a man fulfilled. “I’m not particularly disappointed. You always want be on pole; I had very good pace throughout practice and my long runs were very good, which is encouraging. Q1 and Q2 were quite good too, but in Q3 I didn’t really get a great lap together.”

Rosberg did, however, as he so often has this season, and to his credit Hamilton acknowledged that. “Nico did a great job,” he said. “But I’m still here to fight tomorrow, that’s the special day.”

Rosberg has an ice-cool demeanour, great speed and advice from his father, Keke, who enjoys legendary F1 status after winning the world title in 1982. “Although this has been my first year fighting for a world championship, I’ve never felt more comfortable,” Rosberg said.

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Nico Rosberg in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

“My dad and I had discussions and I’ve tried to take whatever advice from him that would help me. My mindset is that I need to get the job done and continue where I was in Brazil. I’m sure Lewis and I will have a great battle.”

The German is also buoyed by the presence of Williams’s dangerman, Valtteri Bottas, in third place on the grid. Rosberg said on Thursday that he was praying the Finn might get between himself and his team-mate. He needs to win, but to become champion he also needs Hamilton to finish third or lower.

Rosberg said: “I have to hope for more than that, because I need not only to win but to get some help against Lewis. I hope that Valtteri can be on extra-special form and do the impossible tomorrow. I go into this race with no fear and with every belief that this can be my title. It’s not over until that chequered flag finally drops.”

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Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

And in true Rosberg fashion, he couldn’t resist trying to get into his team-mate’s head when asked who had been handling the pressure better here. “Pressure is one of the hooks I have, and if Lewis feels it and makes mistakes…

“It’s a bit like Brazil, the sort of opportunity I’m looking for, so I will push flat out and keep the level very high and that pressure on.”

Hamilton was expressionless as he listened to all that, like a boxer staring down an opponent in the ring. A man who had gone into that place from where he could draw the wherewithal for greatness in adversity. Quiet. Calm. Dangerous.

How would he approach the race, the fight into the first corner? “Same as every time.” He overtook Rosberg in America, but made a mistake in Brazil. Which would it be here? “I don’t know, we’ll see.” How many risks would he be prepared to take to keep Bottas behind him at the start? “I’ll be looking forward, so I’ll just drive the same as I always drive.”

As Williams annexed the second row of the grid, Red Bull faced disaster. Both their cars were disqualified from qualifying for having front wings that flexed too much. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel will have to start at the back of the grid.

Final Positions After Qualifying:

1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1min 40.480secs,

2 Lewis Hamilton(Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:40.866,

3 Valtteri Bottas(Fin) Williams 1:41.025,

4 Felipe Massa(Bra) Williams 1:41.119,

5 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus) Red Bull 1:41.267,

6 Sebastian Vettel(Ger) Red Bull 1:41.893,

7 Daniil Kvyat(Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:41.908,

8 Jenson Button(Gbr) McLaren 1:41.964,

9 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin) Ferrari 1:42.236,

10 Fernando Alonso(Spa) Ferrari 1:42.866,

11 Kevin Magnussen(Den) McLaren 1:42.198,

12 Jean-Eric Vergne(Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:42.207,

13 Sergio Perez(Mex) Force India 1:42.239,

14 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger) Force India 1:42.384,

15 Adrian Sutil(Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 1:43.074,

16 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus F1 Team 1:42.768,

17 Esteban Gutierrez(Mex)Sauber-Ferrari 1:42.819,

18 Pastor Maldonado(Ven)Lotus F1 Team 1:42.860,

19 Kamui Kobayashi(Jpn)Caterham 1:44.540,

20 Will Stevens(Gbr) Caterham 1:45.095

Note: Romain Grosjean will start the race from 20th position, following the use of a sixth power unit.

Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo will start the race from the back of the grid after being disqualified from qualifying.

PA

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