Abu Dhabi GP: Nico Rosberg cannot afford tangle with Red Bull drivers, says Horner

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has warned championship leader Nico Rosberg his drivers will “simply be going for it” at the final race of the season.

Rosberg leads Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 12 points and needs to finish third or higher in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to secure his first world title.

“Nico can’t afford to get tangled up with another battle,” said Horner.

“It is Nico’s to lose and we could be Lewis’ best friend if we get both of our cars between him and Nico.”

Rosberg’s win at the Japanese Grand Prix on 9 October left him in a position where he could finish second to Hamilton at each of the remaining four grands prix.

He has since done exactly that in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, and will no doubt settle for more of the same this weekend.

“Nico is driving with the championship in mind. He is a bright guy. He is playing the percentages and banking the points,” added Horner, who believes his drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo can pile pressure on the German this weekend.

“He is going to be watching his mirrors more than most going into Turn One, and we have seen with our guys, they’re not in that position so they will simply be going for it.

“You can imagine him being a bit more tentative than he has been at other races.”

Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen, so impressive in the wet in Brazil last time out, says he will not shy away from challenging the Mercedes cars if Red Bull are on the pace.

“You never try to crash, and we need to leave it fair, but if we are between them I will be fighting for my position,” Verstappen said.

“Lewis has a big chance to win the race and there still needs to be someone between them. Nico will be in control and managing the situation.

“If it goes normally Nico will be champion, but with Lewis pushing hard, it is up to what Nico does and how he handles it.”

Earlier this month Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff was forced to deny claims he asked Verstappen’s father to tell the 19-year-old not to interfere in the title fight.

Wolff admitted to phoning Jos Verstappen, but added: “I didn’t say to move out of the way, nor to race in any different way.”

Graph shows finishing positions of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton during the season so far. For full list of results, go to the results tab on the Formula 1 index

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BBC Sport – Formula 1

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