BBC’s Ben Edwards admits it will be tough to contain his excitement when Lewis Hamilton races for his second Formula One (F1) world title.
The corporation’s lead television commentator, who lives in Wortham, is in Abu Dhabi ready for the final round of one of the most talked about F1 finales in history.
Hamilton — champion in 2008 — holds a 17-point lead over teammate and rival Nico Rosberg going into the final round at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday, but must finish at least second to guarantee a title celebration.
“We do want to stay neutral and show whoever wins is what counts, but it’s exciting to see a British guy out there who could win the world championship,” said Edwards, in his third year as the BBC’s main man. “It’s all to play for, so I’m very much looking forward to it.
“I still think Hamilton is going to do it — as I have said all season — but it won’t take an awful lot for it to go wrong.
“He’s looking very relaxed, but there has to be some underlying anxiety.”
Despite being the dominant team by winning 15 of the 18 races so far this season, Mercedes have suffered numerous reliability problems during the campaign, meaning the title race will remain on a knife-edge until the final corner of the final lap of the race on Sunday.
Hamilton — who has 10 wins to Rosberg’s five — was forced out of the Australian and Canadian Grands Prix with reliability issues, while Rosberg suffered technical faults at Silverstone in July and Singapore just five races ago.
The British driver, who has also been cost points by mechanical gremlins in qualifying this year, has endured one further retirement after being shunted out of the Belgian Grand Prix by Rosberg.
Despite that collision, Mercedes’ decision to let their drivers race has provided F1 with what Edwards described as ‘a great sporting rivalry’.
“We’ve had teams dominate in the past and it’s produced boring racing because they have engineered who is going to win — particularly Ferrari in the early 2000s,” added Edwards. “A lot of credit has to go to Mercedes for letting them get on with it and it will come down to the final race as a result.”
Rosberg’s victory in Brazil brought the points gap down to 17 — a figure that would have meant Hamilton only needed to be in the top six in Abu Dhabi under last year’s rules to take the crown.
However, Bernie Ecclestone’s controversial double-points plan for the final race means Hamilton’s margin of error is down to the top two if Rosberg wins the race.
“I still don’t like double points,” said Edwards. “But that’s what it is and it will keep it more exciting until the end.
“I don’t think it’s fair because now Hamilton can finish third and Rosberg win to take the title.
“That scenario is not so likely though because Mercedes have been so dominant and if he is running he’s likely to be first or second.”
A former world champion not in this year’s title is facing a very different race this weekend and one that could be his last, without even knowing it at the time.
Jenson Button — world champion in 2009 — is yet to discover his fate at McLaren, who are expected to re-sign Fernando Alonso for 2015 and pair him with Kevin Magnussen, Button’s current teammate.
The Woking-based outfit announced they were delaying their driver announcement until December, creating a huge backlash from a large contingent of F1 supporters, who believe Button — the third most-experienced driver in F1 history — should retain his drive for another year.
And Edwards, for one, would be sad to see him go.
“He’s a great ambassador for F1,” said the commentator. “He’s a great guy to have around, but he has said himself not to feel sorry for him because he’s had a fantastic career. He’s extremely proud of what he’s achieved and so he should be.
“I still think he can deliver for the team — you only have to look how he withstood Hamilton when they were together at McLaren.”
Although fans are looking forward to the title finale, the demise of two teams has left a shadow over the sport in recent weeks.
Marussia and Caterham — who have made more than 400 staff redundant between them — could race in Abu Dhabi as they try to save their futures.
And with Caterham having been created from the former Lotus Racing and Team Lotus outfits based in nearby Hingham, Norfolk, their demise is particularly upsetting for Edwards.
“I’m sad for the guys who worked there,” he said. “I don’t feel they have been looked after at any stage in the last couple of years. I’m saddened to see teams disappear and it seems to be going the way of the big teams more and more.”