F1: Championship leader Nico Rosberg wants a simple race but heat is on in Brazil — especially if it rains

Graham Caygill provides his analysis from qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg looks to close out the title.

Victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix guarantees Nico Rosberg the drivers' championship. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Since he was triumphant at last month’s Japanese Grand Prix, it has been a case of ticking off boxes for Nico Rosberg.

His victory at Suzuka gave him a 33-point lead in the drivers’ standings. It meant he did not have to win any of the remaining four races of the season to be world champion.

All the Mercedes-GP driver needed, in the best car in the field, was three second places and a third, and even if teammate Lewis Hamilton won four times he would still be the man leaving the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 27 top of the standings.

Second places in the United States and Mexico races, behind Hamilton, have kept that scenario in check and the German goes into Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix with a 19-point advantage still over Hamilton.

Admittedly, Hamilton is making inroads into that lead, but with only two races to go, it does not matter as long as Rosberg keeps doing what he is doing; stay out of trouble and finish behind his teammate.

Rosberg will be aware he has dodged two bullets already in Austin and Mexico City as those past two runner-up results were far from convincing.

More Formula One:

• Brazil GP preview: Rosberg primed to end F1 title race in Brazil — and prevent end-of-season showdown in Abu Dhabi

• Video: Verstappen comes under fire from Mercedes and Vettel for 'arrogant' Mexico GP drive

• Graham Caygill: If Lewis Hamilton is still to win F1 title, help will have to come from Red Bull

He was fortunate with the timing of a virtual safety car period in the United States to get himself ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo after he ran behind the Australian for most of the race.

He then struggled for pace in Mexico and made contact with the other Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the start, and was pushed hard by the Dutch teenager for much of the race.

How he did it is irrelevant now, it is the points on the board that matter and ultimately it was mission accomplished.

That is what Rosberg is looking for again this weekend. It does not have to be spectacular, or even necessarily quick, but as long as he finishes on the podium, at the very least the destiny of the title will still be in his hands at Yas Marina Circuit in two weeks time.

Victory on Sunday, at a track he has won at for the past two seasons, would wrap up the championship would see Rosberg follow in the footsteps of his father Keke, the 1982 world champion.

He was beaten to pole position by Hamilton in a tense qualifying session on Saturday, leaving him second on the grid for the start of 71 laps of the Interlagos track.

If he does not beat Hamilton off the line into Turn 1 then it could prove hard for Rosberg to beat him in a clean fight, barring mechanical problems.

But second, or at worst third, behind Hamilton will still leave Rosberg in a great position to be champion. Essentially, he will be after a straightforward afternoon.

Unfortunately he may not get that as rain is forecast to play a part in proceedings. The threat of precipitation on the track is not something Rosberg needs at a time when he wants things simple.

In the dry, the Mercedes has had a speed edge of up to half a second over the rest of the field, so even if he did not make a good start he would still fancy, on basic raw performance, of being able to regain any positions he drops.

But a race with rain makes things more complicated. Rosberg has been average at best in damp conditions this year, finishing seventh in Monaco and third in Britain, both races that begun wet before turning dry.

Rain will lessen the advantages that Mercedes have, such as engine power, and the good aerodynamics required to be competitive when less grip is available will bring Red Bull into play.

Both Ricciardo and Verstappen have shone in mixed conditions this year and will relish the chance to fight Mercedes on a more level playing field, knowing their rivals maybe more tentative given their fight for the championship.

Hamilton needs people to beat Rosberg for the destiny of the title to swing his way and he will know this could be the best chance for it to happen.

If he wins and Rosberg fails to finish on the podium then Hamilton knows a victory in Abu Dhabi would give him his fourth drivers’ title.

The pressure is on Rosberg now to finish the job, but with two out of four checked off on his list, this may well be the biggest obstacle he needs to overcome if he is going to prevail.

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport