On Sunday afternoon, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will take to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit to decide which of them will take home the honour of being 2016 Formula One World Drivers’ Champion.
The matter of who has the real advantage heading into the final round is still very much in question. Points-wise, the ball is clearly in Rosberg’s court – at twelve points clear, all the German has to do to prevail overall is finish on the podium, regardless of whether his teammate wins the race.
But with Hamilton on a three-race win streak and the Red Bulls an ever larger presence in Mercedes’ mirrors, Rosberg’s lead is hardly the most comfortable of margins for a driver closing on his first title. So, in search of a little clarity, we’ve taken a look back at the Mercedes duo’s respective results books, to see how they’ve fared in Abu Dhabi in the past – and what indications that might give for Sunday.
In terms of raw statistics, a direct comparison between Hamilton and Rosberg is impossible – after all, for four of F1’s seven years racing in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton was driving race-winning McLarens whilst Rosberg fought in the midfield pack with Williams and Mercedes.
As such, it’s not too surprising that Hamilton’s results during this time considerably eclipse Rosberg’s, with one win, one second place, and two mechanical retirements from pole position. Even without a like-for-like comparison, such a scorecard would suggest that Rosberg would have to have an exceptional affinity for the Yas Marina Circuit to even come close to Hamilton.
And yet, on comparing results from their time together at Mercedes, it begins to seem as if Rosberg might actually have the edge over Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.
The pool of examples is admittedly small – the 2014 race, in which Hamilton won whilst Rosberg was confined to fourteenth after his ERS failed, can hardly be called representative – but there is nevertheless a trend in the German’s favour in recent years.
Even with his two poles in 2009 and 2012, Hamilton has been trumped by Rosberg in every Abu Dhabi Grand Prix qualifying since he joined Mercedes: in 2013, Rosberg headed Hamilton on the second row of the grid, and in 2014 and 2015 beat the Briton to pole by the best part of half a second each time.
At a track where overtaking opportunities are already at a premium, a qualifying record like that should already be enough to give Hamilton pause for thought this weekend – not to mention the fact that Rosberg also came out ahead in each of those races (bar 2014), coming home third to Hamilton’s seventh in 2013, then taking the chequered flag with an eight second gap to his teammate last year.
Of course, the trend of past results means very little when it comes down to race day itself – take Hamilton defying Rosberg to take his first Brazilian Grand Prix victory last time out, for example. But even though Hamilton is more than capable of outqualifying and outracing his teammate in Abu Dhabi this weekend, it’s hard to ignore that, with both the lead in the standings and his track record at Yas Marina, it will take something remarkable to deny Nico Rosberg his first World Championship on Sunday.