Mercedes F1 team director Toto Wolff has admitted that he expects the 2014 world championship to be decided at the season's 'double points' finale in Abu Dhabi – but doesn't believe that either of his drivers will care about the controversial scoring change if they come out on top.
Speaking after seeing Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton claim a 1-3 finish in Mercedes' home event at Hockenheim on Sunday, Wolff shrugged aside suggestions that the crown could be dictated by the number of retirements each driver suffers by claiming that they will remain close enough in the points table to bring the finale's twist into play.
Theoretically, the chasing pack could head to Yas Marina 49 points behind the championship leader and still have a shot at landing the title, with 50 points on offer to the winner of the 19th round. While 'the pack' looks likely to comprise only Rosberg or Hamilton as Mercedes continues to dominate the top step of the podium, Wolff believes that neither will establish a decisive lead before heading to the Gulf region.
“I think retirements are going to play a crucial role, but the racing between the two is so close that I would be very surprised if it doesn't come down to Abu Dhabi and the double points,” the Austrian noted, aware that Hamilton has two DNFs to Rosberg's one through the first half of the 2014 campaign.
“Even if you are behind by 30 points, you could turn it around in Abu Dhabi if the leading guy retires. Maybe Bernie was right having double points to keep the championship open to the last race….”
Despite the near certainty that one of his drivers will lift the crown at the end of the season, Wolff insisted that he did not agree with the decision to award double points for one race, regardless of the impact it could have on viewing figures.
“I don't think it's fair and I don't think we should have done it, but the reason was that the commercial rights holder said that we needed to keep the excitement to the end, until the last race, and it looks like he was right,” he conceded, “The last race could be the decisive one and I'd be very much surprised if the audience wasn't up on what it would normally be.”
Rosberg heads to round eleven, in Hungary this weekend, with a renewed 14-point advantage over Hamilton after taking his fourth win of the year, rebuilding the gap after the Briton capitalised on a rare DNF for his rival at Silverstone. Hamilton, however, has overcome bigger deficits already this season, going into round two in Malaysia 25 points adrift after retiring from the Australian Grand Prix. The pair briefly swapped places at the top of the standings after the Briton racked up four wins in a row between Sepang and Barcelona, but Rosberg's greater consistency – he has yet to finish outside the top two when seeing the chequered flag – gives him the upper hand heading into the second half of the campaign.
Asked whether either driver would worry about the potential stigma of knowing that he won the title because of the double points rule, Wolff admitted that it would probably have a bigger impact on the one that misses out.
“I don't think either driver will care if they win the title because of double points - but I think the one that might lose the title because of double points will need some 'psychological treatment',” he smiled.