Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner feels Nico Rosberg comes into the 2016 Formula 1 title finale with a tougher challenge mentally than his rival Lewis Hamilton, even if he admits the champion-elect has 'driven well under pressure' elsewhere this season.
Rosberg comes into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix final round needing just a third place finish around the Yas Marina Circuit to secure his first F1 title, a result many expect him to complete based on dry-weather form alone.
Even so, Horner sees echoes of the 2010 F1 title fight between Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel at the same venue, where the latter ignored title permutations to focus on his own race, win dominantly and walk away with the championship win as his rivals floundered further back.
Down to the wire: The tensest F1 title finales of all time
With this in mind, Horner feels Hamilton could have the edge psychologically against his long-term foe and suggests it is his best chance to make a difference.
“I think psychologically it is easier for Lewis because it's an FA Cup final for him, he's just got to go for it. All he can do is win the race and then the other results have to take care of themselves. That was very much the scenario with Sebastian in 2010, there were four drivers that year - Lewis, Fernando, Mark and Seb - that all stood a chance of winning.
“Sebastian just paid no attention to what was going on around him, just got on with the job and drove a great race. The others tightened up a little bit, focusing … particularly Fernando covering what Mark was doing and forgetting what Seb was doing. And he went into that race similar to Nico just needing to finish in the top three to be world champion and events unfolded and Sebastian prevailed at the end of the day.
“It just goes to show you can't take anything for granted. At the end of the year the engines, the gearboxes are all getting up there in mileage. Nobody has been infallible to reliability issues, so you'd hope it wasn't a factor like that that dictated the championship, but Lewis definitely still has a pretty decent chance going into this final race.”
Even so, Horner acknowledges that Rosberg's ability to sustain pressure has been evidenced in 2016 and says he deserves to win the title even if Hamilton ends the year with more wins.
POINTS: The F1 Drivers' & Constructors' standings ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 finale
“This is the championship point effectively, so it will be interesting to see how he deals with that. He's driven well under pressure so far this year, he's driven a very strong season and things have gone his way which is sometimes the way things work out. For sure this will probably be the biggest race of his career this weekend to close the job off.”
“I do [think he deserves the title],” he continued. “Over the course of the season he's driven very well, he's driven consistently, he's kept his head and he's got himself into a strong position. He's had a bit of the rub of the green with reliability but that tends to balance itself out over the course of the year. He's put together a very strong campaign. It's his to lose.”
Latest Tweets from Crash.net & GPF1rst