Yes, it looks like Mission Impossible for Lewis Hamilton but his performance during Saturday’s qualifiers showed that when he is full-on he is formidable and beating Rosberg by three tenths of a second to take pole position put the heat on his Mercedes team-mate.
It was also telling to watch the body language of both drivers after qualifying. Hamilton was joking while Rosberg looked disappointed that he had been so comprehensively outpaced. The German is a cool character but just maybe the pressure is beginning to tell. The title is, after all, his to lose.
Hamilton has to win this race to have any chance of retaining his crown. He then needs Rosberg to suffer a mechanic failure, crash, or miss out on a podium place, most likely to the Red Bulls or Ferrari to pull off what would be an extraordinary comeback from being 43 points adrift of his team-mate after the Spanish Grand Prix and then 33 points behind with just four races left.
Hamilton could, if he chose to, try to back up Rosberg to leave him within the clutches of the Red Bulls or Ferrari. Unlikely, but you never know. If he finishes second then Rosberg only has to finish sixth; third place means the German will win the title with eighth. Anything lower than that is game over for the Brit.
Rosberg won’t be bothered by those scenarios when he is sitting on the front row of the grid because his instinct, like all F1 drivers, will be to push for victory. Hamilton, Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo who starts third on the grid, and Kimi Raikkonen in fourth will all be thinking the same so the sprint down to the first corner could be interesting.
Hamilton, who has had a couple of dodgy starts from pole this season, can’t afford to collide with his team-mate at the first corner because if that happens and he has to retire from the race he can kiss goodbye to his title and Rosberg isn’t the type to take his team-mate out – you would think!
Rosberg can be thankful that Max Verstappen starts from sixth on the grid but even from there he has the ability and the killer instinct to have a go, given the slightest opportunity. So don’t rule out some interference from him.
It is also interesting that Red Bull have chosen to start the race on super-soft tyres rather than faster degrading ultra-soft which means they should be able to go longer into the race before stopping for new rubber.
Only two drivers, Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel have won this race from pole but Hamilton will be determined to make it three. At some stage Rosberg, if he is running second or third, has to make a decision on whether to settle for a podium position and that could be risky, if he is under any kind of pressure from rivals.
So there is still plenty for Rosberg to think about but if he does win the title tonight to emulate his dad Keke, who won the title in 1982, and join Graham and Damon Hill as the only father-and-son world champions then he will be a worthy winner.
He has been consistent all season, will have proved he can deal with immense pressure and will have beaten Hamilton, who he described himself as the benchmark and the man many believe is still the best driver on the grid. But it’s not done yet!