Sebastian Vettel is making all the right noises, while Nico Rosberg has played down the likelihood that he will have to spend the remainder of the season playing a supporting role for his Mercedes teammate – but the question is can anyone seriously stop Lewis Hamilton nabbing his third world title?
After his Sochi breakdown, Mercedes’ German driver was actually passed for second in the championship by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
It means a German wearing red is now Hamilton’s greatest threat for the drivers’ title, but the disappointed Rosberg insisted to Bild newspaper: “I will try to enjoy the last four races and win as many of them as I can.
“Unfortunately yes, Sebastian overtook me in the championship in Russia, but I will try to change that in America.
“I was even asked after the (Sochi) race if I would help Lewis in the situation that Sebastian is catching him even more, but to be honest I’m not thinking about that.
“And I don’t believe it will come to that either,” Rosberg added. “Hopefully in 2016 all three of us will have a very tight battle for the title.”
Unfortunately for Rosberg, the overwhelming feeling in the paddock now is that teammate Hamilton has his hands firmly on the 2015 crown.
“Mathematically yes,” team chairman Niki Lauda admitted when asked if Rosberg can still do it this season, “but Lewis would have to retire now and go home.”
Hamilton is not quite sounding that bold, but he acknowledged that his 66-point gap is fairly comfortable.
“I can’t believe I have that many points and that gap,” the 30-year-old said as Mercedes celebrated its constructors’ world championship at Brackley. “I’ve never had that, ever.”
Team boss Toto Wolff, however, said that even though Rosberg’s 2015 campaign is in tatters, the pair have been closely matched this year.
“Everyone talks about Lewis’ dominance,” said the Austrian, “but that is forgetting how close together they usually are. Nico has had no luck in the last races. The more I look at it, the more I realise how good he (Rosberg) was at Sochi.”
But Wolff also spoke about how 2016 is shaping up to be an epic head-to-head battle between two F1 greats — Hamilton and Vettel.
“They are both in very strong cars, and it could be one of the great rivalries in the sport in different teams,” he said.
Hamilton said he would welcome that, especially as his championship run in 2015 has been notably devoid of wheel-to-wheel battles. Indeed, he had to hark back to Bahrain 2014 for the last time he was left “buzzing” by a duel.
“Ultimately I wish formula one was more like that all the time,” he said.
But for the rest of 2015, Hamilton’s biggest enemy is probably the kind of poor reliability that has plagued Rosberg recently. And Mercedes also raced to the chequered flag at Sochi worried about an issue with Hamilton’s rear wing.
“Basically I’m not worried” about reliability, Wolff insisted, “but it is the definition of formula one that you’re always on the limit. “It (the problems at Sochi) showed once again that you can never be too confident.”