Rain gives new hope to Hamilton
Brazil GP, Live, Sky Spts F1, tomorrow, 4.0
Published 12/11/2016 | 02:30
For so long in the contrails of Lewis Hamilton, a driver with whom he has duelled ever since their days as cherubic karting prodigies, Nico Rosberg knows that he will never have a better chance than this.
Here in the sultry heat of Sao Paulo, the German whose driving has become a byword for precision and reliability understands that a victory will be enough to seize his first world title, 34 years after his father Keke did the same.
The only problem is that it is forecast to rain. And when the track starts to slicken, there is usually only one winner - and it is not the tanned Teuton with the blond hair.
Hamilton, as he proved so often, is without peer in this crop of drivers when it comes to the wet.
Whether in negotiating torrential downpours at the Fuji Speedway in 2007, or carving expertly through late showers to win at Silverstone last year, he has a mastery of damp conditions that should make Rosberg nervous - especially when the sweeping corners of Interlagos look likely to be drenched.
While few dispute Rosberg's technical acumen as a driver, there were doubts expressed privately in the paddock yesterday about his capacity for eyeballs-out racing.
Unlike Hamilton or Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, he is not a natural wheel-to-wheel aggressor. So consistent is Rosberg with his starts, his overtaking manoeuvres this season could be counted on one hand.
Rosberg's perceived lack of belligerence could be the one factor that denies him recognition among Formula One's truly exceptional talents.
Niki Lauda, Mercedes' non-executive chairman, has intimated as much, once arguing that Hamilton at his fastest has as much as a two-tenths of a second advantage per lap over his team-mate.
In the final analysis, though, tomorrow's title decider in Brazil rests firmly in Rosberg's hands.
Win, and he would secure the title that his charismatic father once inspired him to pursue. Spin out, as he might be prone to do on a wet and wild afternoon, and the slugfest would roll on to Abu Dhabi in a fortnight's time.
Rosberg could seal a 10th world championship for Germany in just 17 years, after the supremacy of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Not that he is celebrated to anything like the same extent in the country he calls his own. The problem, as Hamilton put it less than tactfully in 2014, is that Rosberg is "not really German".
He is half-Finnish through Keke's ancestry and spent much of his childhood in Monte Carlo. Every inch a citizen of Europe, he is smooth, cosmopolitan and a brilliant linguist but not, alas, a character who inspires intensely partisan passion. (© Daily Telegraph, London)