Hamilton victory seems destined in Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Lewis Hamilton is aiming to finish off his championship-winning season with a victory in Formula One's season-ending grand prix this weekend, and with the streets of Abu Dhabi festooned with the British driver's No.44, such an outcome seems predestined.
The 44 is not for Hamilton, but for the United Arab Emirates' 44th anniversary of independence, which comes next month. Still, with Hamilton's number being 44, and the fact he is chasing a 44th career victory, all seems in place for a Hamilton triumph.
''I'm here to win that 44th race, which I still haven't done, so it's cool how it all kind of ties in,'' Hamilton said Thursday.
The only man that seems capable of denying him such a neat sequence of 44s is his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who has won the past two races and taken five successive pole positions.
''I am ahead now, lately I have been quicker,'' Rosberg said. ''It's just to-and-fro a little bit, and at the moment I am the one that has the upper hand.''
It's not an upper hand that counts for too much, given Hamilton ran away with the drivers' championship.
Asked to rate his season out of ten, Rosberg said somewhere between a 7 and a 7.5 but added ''the problem is the other guy had a higher number.''
Mercedes, like all teams, generally has slightly different pit-stop timing and race strategy between its two drivers in case one proves a miscalculation. With the championship already decided, some fans had been urging the team to allow Hamilton and Rosberg to use the same strategy and race head-to-head, but it seems unlikely.
''Whoever's up ahead will have the best strategy and the guy behind will have the second-best strategy,'' Hamilton said.
It will be an anti-climactic final race of the season regardless of the result. Even in those years where the championship has been decided before Abu Dhabi, there was still much intrigue around the F1 paddock as drivers and their agents lobbied for lucrative moves to new teams.
This year, the driver merry-go-round has already stopped, with only the seats at back-marker team Manor still up for grabs.
The driver lineup at the top five teams - Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, Red Bull and Force India - will remain unchanged in 2016, but one man who will be on the move is Frenchman Romain Grosjean, who will depart the very uncertain circumstances of Lotus to join new American-owned team Haas.
''Switching the car off on Sunday and thinking it is the last race with the team will certainly be quite hard,'' said Grosjean, who has been associated with the Enstone-based team formerly known as Renault since 2005.
''I want to thank the team. We've been through some tough times and better times as well, and we did both learn from those years.''
This is expected to be the last race for Lotus-branded team, which is in the final stages of a drawn-out takeover by former owner and current engine supplier Renault, and an announcement of the completion of the deal could come as soon as this weekend.