Formula 1

Spa 2014 clash will haunt Nico Rosberg's entire F1 career

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Over three-quarters of the way through the 2015 Formula 1 season and a third drivers' title is all but in the bag for Lewis Hamilton.

His easy victory at the Russian Grand Prix this past Sunday saw him jump into a 66-point lead in the Drivers' Championship over Sebastian Vettel as team-mate Nico Rosberg fell 73 points behind the Briton thanks to his early retirement in Sochi.

That gap means, considering Mercedes' dominant position at the front in F1, all Lewis has to do in Austin next time out is do what he has done all but once, without external factors interfering, this season. That is to finish ahead of Rosberg to end the German's already very slim chances of becoming champion.


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It's safe to say Hamilton has had Rosberg's number throughout 2015, with three wins in the first four races the Briton put himself into position as the man to beat and from then on never looked back. He left his team-mate now in a battle just to beat the ever-present Sebastian Vettel to finish second in the Drivers' standings.

Many felt that if Rosberg was to stand a chance against his team-mate this season, he had to do what he did last year and get the early lead. But comfortable wins in Australia, China and Bahrain, as well as beating Rosberg in Malaysia, proved Hamilton was still the superior driver at Mercedes just as he had been since the events of the Belgian Grand Prix the previous August.

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Of course you don't need me to remind you what happened on that fateful Sunday at Spa but it lit a spark inside Hamilton that pushed his game to a level not seen in years and a level Rosberg has never been able to match.

The Briton won six of the seven races following the clash at Spa, easing to a second world title and, indeed, in the 22 races since then, Rosberg has only beaten Hamilton twice in a straight fight in Brazil last year and Barcelona this year. His other victories in Monaco and Austria were influenced by a poor team decision and a penalty. Also, not once can I recall Rosberg passing Hamilton on track in that time.

Rosberg lacking instinctive edge

Of course Rosberg has had his share of bad luck such as the issue that dropped him to third in Bahrain and the recent mechanical failures in Italy and Russia, but considering the two poor races for Hamilton in Hungary and Singapore, the gap between the two really highlights who has been the better driver.

Much of that can be put down to Rosberg's over-reliance on strategy and the reduced radio help that has meant his thinking man's approach has been no match for Hamilton's natural flat-out, instinctive style and some I would also argue is down to Mercedes' sole focus on the Constructors' Championship and perhaps not allowing the head-to-head racing that fans want.

2016 a final chance?

Either way I would go as far as to say that had it not been for the new contract Rosberg signed with Mercedes last year, he would have been one of the drivers subject to speculation during the so-called 'silly season'. As it was, Kimi Raikkonen rather took the attention away from him.

With top young names like Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Pascal Wehrlein and Sergio Perez all waiting to become the next generation of champions, Rosberg's current form just won't hack it.

His time as a championship contender has gone as quickly as it arrived because, with the return and continued improvement of Ferrari, all eyes will be on the much anticipated Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel battle in 2016. That leaves Rosberg and Raikkonen to play the roles donned by Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard during the Schumacher vs. McLaren era and watch on from a safe distance as the two current Goliaths of F1 go at it.

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