By Alan Baldwin
Nico Rosberg’s controlled pole to flag victory in Brazil on Sunday showed the German had learnt from his U.S. Grand Prix mistakes of a week ago but the hurt could not be wiped away entirely.
The Mercedes driver’s fifth win of the Formula One season left him 17 points adrift of team mate Lewis Hamilton with one race remaining and the odds still against him.
Even with an unprecedented double points on offer at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, Rosberg can only become champion if Hamilton finishes out of the top two.
That has not happened since the pair collided in Belgium at the end of August, with the Briton racking up five wins in a row up to Interlagos and finishing a close second on Sunday.
The situation would be entirely different had Rosberg converted his pole position in Austin last weekend into a race win, rather than allowing Hamilton to get close enough to pass and win.
Rosberg was still smarting from that even after spraying the champagne following a record-breaking one-two at Interlagos.
“Austin was a tough day for me on Sunday, so yeah, it was important for me to just improve, because I just didn’t do a good enough job in the race in Austin,” he told reporters.
“Today I managed to do that, so that I’m happy about. I learned from Austin and did better so that’s a big step in the right direction. One race too late but, you know, there’s still all to play for.
“I always needed to make sure that the gap was always such that there was no chance for him to go for the overtake – unlike Austin. And I managed to do that, so that was good,” he said.
Rosberg is perfectly capable of taking pole and winning in Abu Dhabi, where overtaking is not easy, but finding someone to deny Hamilton that all-important second place could prove more difficult.
He suggested Brazilian Felipe Massa, who finished third for Mercedes-powered Williams in his home race, could lend a hand.
“He’s the man,” Rosberg told reporters with a grin. “I need some Felipe Massa help.”
The little Brazilian indicated he had other plans: “I hope I win,” he exclaimed.
“No, that’s not so much help. Not so fast, in between (the Mercedes drivers),” replied Rosberg.