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How Hamilton can be champion

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 23-11-2016 skysports.com

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Statistically, there is only a 20 per cent chance Lewis Hamilton will be crowned champion at the conclusion of the Duel in the Desert. 

Some pundits have suggested the odds against Hamilton beating Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to the crown are even greater than that.

Even if Hamilton wins Sunday's race, Rosberg only needs to finish third to secure his first ever Drivers' World Championship. The German will also prevail if Hamilton fails to finish higher than fourth.

But is a Hamilton triumph really so unlikely? Here are five ways Hamilton could prevail….

Rosberg has an off dayDespite his remarkable consistency in 2016, there have been times when Rosberg has looked anything but a world champion. Take his questionable run of form ahead of the summer break, for example.

In that seven-race stretch, Hamilton converted a 43-point defecit into a 19-point lead. In fact, all of the four races this season which, if they were mirrored this weekend, would result in Hamilton winning the championship came during that period: Rosberg sloppily finished sixth in Monaco, fifth in Canada, fourth in Germany, before colliding with his team-mate on his way to fourth in Austria.

And on all those occasions, Hamilton won the race. A repeat in Abu Dhabi would be sufficient for him to prevail as champion. 

Nico fails to finishRemember Spain. Think of the first corner in Malaysia when Rosberg was punted by Sebastian Vettel. And then try to imagine just how tense Nico will be feeling when the lights go out on Sunday. Rosberg has only been in title contention once on an F1 final day - the 2014 showdown where he lost out - while Hamilton has been involved in a last-race showdon on four occasions.

Even in F1, and sometimes especially in F1 on the final day of the season, mistakes do happen.

Rosberg suffers a car malfunctionAs Hamilton has habitually pointed out this year, his bad luck - headlined by three separate engine failures - has been in sharp contrast to the near bullet-proof reliability enjoyed by his team-mate. 

"He has finished every race and not had any problems, where I have," Hamilton lamented in Brazil. Asked about Rosberg's good fortune, Hamilton then responded: "Unbelievable, when will it end?"

Perhaps the answer will be Abu Dhabi. The law of averages certainly suggest that Rosberg is either due some bad luck or a crippling mechanical issue on his W07.

Were that to happen, the title could be there for the taking for his team-mate.

Hamilton wins and both Red Bulls beat Rosberg to the podiumGiven Hamilton has won each of the last three races and neither Red Bull driver has shown any inclination to ease off, this scenario is arguably the Englishman's best hope. But there's a problem - and it's one which was articulated by Lewis himself after his victory at Interlagos: "Nico is just cruising to finish second and unfortunately the Red Bulls are not at the moment quick enough to really challenge us."

True enough, Mercedes do hold a substantial pace advantage over the rest. But even before they wrapped up second place in the Constructors' Championship in Brazil, Red Bull had already displayed a ready willingness to roll the dice on strategy, with team boss Christian Horner explaining in Mexico: "They have a quicker car and if we did the same strategy we are not likely to beat them. By adopting a different strategy we have a chance."

Red Bull have nothing to lose in Abu Dhabi but for Rosberg the stakes couldn't be higher. Might a Red Bull curveball be enough to destabilise his coronation? 

Rosberg plays it too safeOne of the major curiosities this week is how Rosberg approaches the weekend. And it's especially interesting given Nico admitted being in two minds about his tactics for Abu Dhabi before making his departure from Brazil. "I don't know how I'm going to approach the last race yet," he told reporters. "I will let you know when I have had some time to think about it."

All season long, Rosberg, who now says he will be going all out for the victory in Abu Dhabi, has repeated a familiar mantra of taking his title bid one race at a time and trying to win every grand prix. But to secure the title, going for the win this Sunday may not be the smart move - hence his indecision at Interlagos.

Conversely, playing safe is not without risk. F1 history is laced with seemingly-straightforward routes to a coronation becoming a road to ruin when the championship leader tries to do just enough. Think of Vettel in 2012, Hamilton in both 2007 and 2008, and Fernando Alonso in 2010.

If Nico makes it complicated, he might just come a cropper.

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