Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton vs Nico Rosberg: Who will be 2014 F1 champion?

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This weekend marks the start of the final eight race run-in to decide who will become the 2014 Formula 1 world champion.

In a year that has been dominated by Mercedes and its drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have offered a fascinating battle, as the 2008 champion looks to add another title to his name while the perceived underdog in Rosberg fights to follow in the footsteps of his father.

Season so far

The two drivers head to Spa-Francorchamps with Nico 11 points clear of his team-mate in the standings as Hamilton has struggled in recent races.

The Briton was on the back foot from the first race of the year as a loose wire forced him to retire early on in Australia while Rosberg was left untroubled to take the first win of the new V6 era.

Already 25 points behind, Hamilton would fight back taking four consecutive wins from Malaysia to Spain, including coming out on top in two incredible head-to-head duels with his team-mate in Bahrain and Barcelona.

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With Lewis now leading, Rosberg would halt his momentum in controversial fashion as an error in qualifying gave the German pole in Monaco and on Sunday he would convert it into a second win of the year as Hamilton had to settle for second.

In Canada, the hopes of Mercedes winning all 19 races would end as ERS problems would hit both cars during the race.

In attempting to solve the problem, Hamilton would lose his brakes and was forced to retire while Rosberg was able to finish the race, claiming second as Daniel Ricciardo won his first Grand Prix for Red Bull.

A mistake from Hamilton in qualifying put him ninth on the grid in Austria as Williams locked out the front row, but in the race Mercedes were too strong, as Rosberg claimed his third win of the year and Hamilton would recover from his lowly grid slot to finish second.

With the gap the highest it had been all year, the pendulum swung back towards Hamilton at Silverstone as he claimed an euphoric home win as Rosberg incurred his first retirement with gearbox problems.

Hamilton's qualifying woes would continue however, as another brake failure meant he had to start from the back of the grid in Germany. As Rosberg claimed a home win of his own, another stellar recovery from Lewis meant he finished third after being held off by Valtteri Bottas late on.

Then, last time out in Hungary, another failure, this time a fuel leak, caused Hamilton to start from the back of the pit-lane as Rosberg claimed pole again.

A wet start and a small problem for Rosberg however allowed Hamilton to get ahead of his team-mate, as the Briton ignored a questionable order to allow the German through, and he would go on to finish third with Rosberg fourth as Ricciardo again capitalised on Mercedes' problems to take his second win.

Advantage Rosberg?

Thanks to Hamilton's qualifying woes, Rosberg maintains an 11-point lead and more than that, the German also has the advantage in terms of engine components, something that will become a major factor as the season reaches its end.

With all drivers limited to five of each part, Hamilton has only one full fresh power unit left for the remaining eight races while Rosberg has two.

With the power circuits of Spa and Monza to come, this means Rosberg will likely be able to use fresh engines at both races as the six that follow are not as punishing.

This may mean Rosberg could have the edge in Monza and should any further problems hit Hamilton in the next two races, it would almost guarantee the Briton would incur a ten-place grid penalty for using a sixth component at at least one race before the end of the season.

Experience counts

Despite the possible power units problems, Hamilton does have the edge in one respect: He knows how to win a championship. 

As the pressure builds and the season goes on, the experiences from 2008 will help him, whereas Rosberg will be going through the process for the first time.

The likelihood of the championship battle going to the final race is also greatly increased this year, with double points on offer. Even with the highest gap between the two men being 29 points all year, if that scenario existed come Abu Dhabi, the leading driver would still need to finish fourth to wrap up the title.

Again, this is where Hamilton would have the experience to draw from Brazil 2008 which could give him an advantage.

Hard to predict

However, predicting the outcome by looking at the final eight races individually is a very tricky task. After all for the past few years these Grands Prix have been dominated by one man, Sebastian Vettel.

Also, this is the first time Rosberg heads to these final races with a realistic chance of winning them, therefore its hard to know if he can be a match for Hamilton or not.

On the record Hamilton has won at five of the remaining eight circuits, with only Japan's Suzuka and Brazil's Interlagos missing from the resume, while Russia's Sochi circuit will host its first race in October.

In Rosberg's case, he does have two podium results, with a second in Singapore in 2008 and a third in Abu Dhabi last year, to his name.

Chase or be chased?

Ultimately, looking ahead to the rest of the season, you have to say Rosberg is just the favourite to be crowned champion. The German will likely add to his four wins so far this year and, such is the speed of the Mercedes, you would believe a trouble-free race where he doesn't win would see him finish second to Hamilton.

The aim for Rosberg, therefore, should be to try and attain a gap of over the 14 points he would need to be able to finish second in Abu Dhabi and be declared champion whatever Hamilton did.

For Hamilton though, is the thought of several potentially unpredictable races to come, with the weather and the usual drama of Singapore and Sao Paulo, and there is the knowledge that if he can overcome his recent qualifying problems there is no reason why he couldn't match Vettel's run of wins from last year.

There will likely be plenty of twists and turns between now and the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, but for the most consistent man this season, the thought of 'more of the same' would surely be enough to see Rosberg claim a maiden F1 title.

Either way the next three months of action promise to be absolutely fascinating because as the sport has proven so many times, you never know what lies just around the corner. 

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