Lewis Hamilton will know better than most that the Formula 1 World Championship is far from sewn up. Not so long ago, the talk was of how Hamilton could possibly close the gap on then championship leader Nico Rosberg, who, it’s worth remembering, led the title race by 29 points just seven weeks ago.
The emphatic answer turned out to be four consecutive race wins and a sizeable deficit has now become a 17-point lead.
Hamilton’s position is an enviable one but it is not an emphatic one. The Briton knows with the vagaries of the season how quickly all the hard work he has done in recent weeks can quickly unravel.
He only need cast his mind back to Australia, Canada and Hungary, all races he had hoped to win only to retire and watch from the pitlane as Rosberg finished on the podium in all three.
There is no denying that Hamilton is in the quickest car but there is first and foremost the issue of reliability. Serious car trouble in a single race and a subsequent race retirement would put Rosberg back in the driving seat.
Most will argue – and fairly it has to be said – that Hamilton has been the quicker driver this season but Rosberg has been no slouch either and deserves better than the boos that have rung out when his name has been announced on the podium in the latter part of the season.
That he finished second behind Hamilton and only 13 seconds off the pace yesterday was a testament to his speed and calmness at the wheel, recovering from a firstlap pitstop, completely of his own creation it has to be said, which appeared to have completely destroyed his race chances before scything his way through the field.
All the smart money is on Hamilton to waltz away with the world title now. He has won at two of the three remaining race tracks on the calendar in 2014: Austin and Abu Dhabi, and that could be gargantuan in the psychological battle with Rosberg, his team-mate having not won at either circuit or for that matter the other Grand Prix at Interlagos.
What, though, looks likely to come into play is the double points on offer at the final race in Abu Dhabi.
There appeared to be carte blanche condemnation of this idea when it was introduced. Defending champion Sebastian Vettel called it “absurd”, while Hamilton and Rosberg played dumb in a Mercedes video around that time when asked about it, both showing their disdain for the ruling in that manner.
It will certainly bring an added edge to Abu Dhabi, but I think it’s a terrible idea. Formula 1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport and not some sort of manufactured game show, which is how this feels.
Imagine the injustice and outrage that will be felt if a driver wins the title by the narrowest of margins and all because they bagged twice as many points for winning at Yas Marina as they did at, say, Melbourne, Suzuka, Silverstone or Montreal. The sooner the gimmick is removed from the rule book the better, frankly.
Having said that, though, Rosberg’s disdain at the original plan must surely have now turned into delight. He will be licking his lips at the prospect that, in all likelihood, his championship challenge will still be alive and well on that final race weekend because of Bernie Ecclestone’s plan.
Ecclestone aimed to do it in response to Red Bull’s dominance of the past four seasons, the hope being that the championship is kept alive until the final race. To his credit, he has done just that and there is no denying that, as a result, the excitement will probably be even more palpable as the clock ticks down to Abu Dhabi.
But let’s just say that Hamilton lands in the United Arab Emirates having won both Austin and Interlagos with Rosberg twice second – the Briton’s lead will be up to 34 points.
But then say he encounters reliability problems and breaks down, while Rosberg ends up second. It would be sufficient for the latter to be crowned champion.
Obviously, Rosberg would delight in his own fairytale ending but, in turn, F1 would surely become a sporting laughing stock. Let’s hope it does not come down to such a situation. With nine wins to his name this season and more sure to follow, Hamilton deserves to be the 2014 world champion.
Lewis Hamilton dedicated his Russian Grand Prix victory to Jules Bianchi as Mercedes’ celebrations at clinching their first Formula One constructors’ championship were tempered by thoughts of the man fighting for his life.
Hamilton took full advantage of Nico Rosberg’s latest mistake to become only the fourth driver in F1 history to win nine grands prix in a season and extend his title advantage over his team-mate to 17 points.
Rosberg had to settle for runnerup for the ninth time this campaign, but it was achieved in remarkable fashion given his error on the run– up to the first braking zone at F1’s newest track, the Sochi Autodrom, at turn two.
Having slipstreamed Hamilton off the line, Rosberg pulled out and momentarily held the lead, only to out-brake himself and flatspot his tyres, causing a vibration which necessitated an immediate change of rubber.
Dropping to 20th after the stop, Rosberg then astonishingly ran for the remaining 52 laps on the one set of tyres to keep Hamilton in his sights in the championship standings.
It was Mercedes’ ninth one-two this season, one short of McLaren’s 1988 record, guaranteeing them the constructors’ crown, albeit an unsurprising success given their dominance throughout the course of this campaign.
For Hamilton, there was obvious delight at a fourth successive win but his thoughts were rightly elsewhere. With Bianchi in a critical condition at the Mie General Medical Centre in Yokkaichi with brain injuries after crashing into a recovery vehicle at Suzuka, Hamilton opened his heart.
He said: “All week there’s been just one person on my mind, and that’s Jules.
“There has been excitement and happiness for the team, but, without a doubt, every time I’ve got in the car this week, coming here, being here, I’ve been thinking about him and his family and keeping him in my prayers every day.
“Whether it means anything, or whether it does anything, it would be great to dedicate this to Jules and his family. It will make a very small difference to them, for sure, but every bit of positive energy hopefully will help.”
For Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff, there was natural elation the team’s long wait for this day had finally arrived.
Following Brawn GP’s successes in 2009, Mercedes stepped in and bought the Brackley–based marque, but it has taken five long years and a sum of around £1.25billion (Dh7.4bn) to achieve the feat.
He said: “It’s a good moment. It’s incredible. I have to pinch myself sometimes because we are now part of Mercedes-Benz history, and we’ve won the first constructors’ title ever, and I feel proud I’m part of the team.
“But we must not forget what happened last week. Even if the boys are happy and the boys are celebrating after all their hard work, we will not forget about Jules.”
The tone was set just over 15 minutes before the start. A sombre mood fell over the circuit when all 21 drivers lined up at the head of the grid along with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt as a mark of respect for the Russian national anthem, but more importantly for Bianchi.
The racing now takes a back seat for almost three weeks before the next event in the United States, allowing all within F1 to take a breather from what has been one of the sport’s toughest times for many years, but with Bianchi unlikely to be far from anybody’s thoughts.
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg shows bow his elation and disappointment after the Russian Grand Prix in a post to his official YouTube account.
Rosberg's team managed to clinch the F1 Constructors' Championship after he finished second, behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton but his error on the first corner made it one of the most difficult races of his season.