Friday 6 December 2019

Rosberg calls for Hamilton to fight fair in desert duel

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg shake hands before the FIA Drivers press conference in Abu Dhabi. David Davies/PA Wire
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg shake hands before the FIA Drivers press conference in Abu Dhabi. David Davies/PA Wire

Daniel Johnson

The awkward handshake and pointed barbs said it all. Ahead of their desert duel, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg did their best to present themselves as the embodiment of serenity, treating their title showdown as if it were any Sunday afternoon drive.

It took just a few minutes and a couple of questions for the masks to slip.

In an enthralling, feisty press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday, the pair were the centre of attention. Hamilton, with a 17-point advantage, appeared marginally more uncomfortable but Rosberg could not let one of his team-mate's comments remain unchallenged.

Tensions ran high as both were asked if this would be a clean contest, free of the skulduggery which Hamilton was at pains to point out earlier in the season, particularly in Monaco.

Asked if it will be a fair fight, Hamilton said: "Yeah - I don't really know what else to say. You always go into the weekend believing it's going to be the case. No (we won't talk about it). We don't need to. It's been discussed at the beginning of the season and several times through the season and particularly after Spa again. We're not children. We should know what is wrong and what is right."

But Rosberg, who clearly feels his long-time sparring partner has employed his own dirty tricks over the course of the season, did not allow that statement to lie unanswered. "Lewis can do something to keep it clean, which is to drive clean himself," he said. "So it's not like he can't do something."

It was a timely reminder that although the level of acrimony has cooled since their memorable crash in Belgium, there remains a great deal of spice between these two. The greatest prize of their lives is up for grabs, after all.

In Monaco, Hamilton accused Rosberg of deliberately scuppering his final run in qualifying. In Hungary they were engulfed in a team orders row before their nadir in Belgium.

The recriminations from their crash stunted Rosberg's challenge but he fought back superbly in Brazil. The latest and most pivotal chapter in this compelling contest - which will run and run next year - comes on Sunday.

Even with double points on offer, Rosberg knows that he is relying on others to help him clinch a first championship. If he wins, Hamilton has to finish third or lower for the German to be victorious although that didn't dent his confidence.

"Of course I need to do what I can to put pressure on Lewis," he said. "He's been making some mistakes." (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Button nears finish after Alonso exit

The three protagonists in Formula One's most eventful silly season for years shared the stage in Abu Dhabi last night after a flurry of announcements signalled the end of Jenson Button's career.

Button, set to be dropped in favour of Fernando Alonso - who confirmed his departure from Ferrari yesterday - indicated that he may consider deciding on his own future before McLaren reveal their driver line-up.

Sebastian Vettel also announced his £150m move from Red Bull to Ferrari - an open secret for weeks - as he hopes to follow in his hero Michael Schumacher's footsteps and revitalise the ailing Italian team.

The developments made for a lively press conference, which ended with Alonso being asked if he would choose Button to be his team-mate next season at McLaren. The Briton, coming near to the end of 15 seasons in the sport, turned to Alonso and gave a playful stare. The Ferrari driver smiled and squirmed, offering no answer.

Button (34) said: "Will I wait for the decision? That's something I can't comment on right now."

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