Mercedes may consider a calculated gamble for Lewis Hamilton to avoid an Abu Dhabi collision with Max Verstappen, says Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz.
Hamilton and Verstappen go into the final scene of a captivating World Championship battle level on points, but with the Dutchman ahead on countback thanks to one more race win than his rival this season.
Several pundits have expressed fears that rather than being won cleanly, the title race may end up as previous clashes between these protagonists did at Silverstone and Monza – with one or both of them crashing out.
If Hamilton did not finish the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Verstappen would be champion – unless the stewards adjudged something to be unfair and took the decision to dock points.
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However, there could be a way for Mercedes to circumnavigate the potential of a collision, by trying to ensure Hamilton prevails purely through pace and does not even necessarily find himself alongside his Red Bull rival at any stage.
That would be by fitting a new engine in Hamilton’s W12, incurring a five-place grid penalty but potentially having a car that was easily the class of the field – as it was at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix where the reigning champion came through to win comfortably from 10th on the grid.
The 36-year-old Briton then followed up with further victories in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
“What do Mercedes fear most? Max Verstappen taking out Lewis Hamilton and winning the championship that way,” said Kravitz on Sky Sports.
“I don’t really see there are any other things they have to fear. They have the package that seems to be quickest at the moment, they have done the hat-trick in the last three races and they always have the option of putting a new power unit in.
“[An engine change] is possible because then what do Red Bull fear most? A Mercedes the like of which Lewis Hamilton had in Brazil, which was nigh-on unbeatable. Not my words – the words of Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal.”
However, it was then put to Kravitz that track position has tended to be king at Yas Marina – at least until the changes to the circuit that have been made this year.
“That is risk No 1, if you take a fresh power unit with the attendant five-place grid penalty,” added Kravitz.
“Risk No 2 is that you start in sixth or seventh at best if you’re Lewis Hamilton and that’s the middle of the midfield carbon-fibre zone – anything can happen in that wave.
“But mitigating that, the benefits are that obviously it gives Mercedes a fresh power unit, and that Mercedes engine when it is fresh is absolutely mega-powerful, more than it would be now it has done two-and-a-half races.
“And secondly, it separates out any possibility of Lewis and Max coming together at the first corner and potentially for the rest of the race as well. Lewis could get to second or third, pit in or out of sequence, undercut or overcut, and they might not ever meet if they were to separate them out like that.
“Hamilton, with the pace advantage from that fresh engine…it might be in the back of Mercedes’ head.
“I don’t think it is – it’s a possibility, but I think they will see what happens in free practice on Friday. If it looks like Verstappen’s got an advantage, they might just think about that fresh power unit.”
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