Diffey on F1 title battle: “First or second for Lewis not a fait accompli”

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As Formula One heads to Abu Dhabi this week for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the curtain-closer on a dramatic and eventful 2014 season, the title is of course still up for grabs between the Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

While Hamilton holds a 17-point lead and needs only to finish first or second to secure the title, regardless of what Rosberg does, it’s not necessarily done and dusted.

Such is the insight and view from NBCSN F1/IndyCar lead broadcaster Leigh Diffey, who was on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan Trackside show Tuesday night, with NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Kevin Lee and Terry Lingner, executive producer for IndyCar broadcasts.

“(The double points) puts a spin on the last race… but it’s not really what Formula One is about,” Diffey told Lee. “It’s never needed it. In many ways we all enjoyed the thrilling Sprint Cup final race just a couple days ago. It was amazing to have all four contenders racing; it was compelling viewing. But I think NASCAR may have been worried (Ryan) Newman would win the title without winning a race.

“F1, Mercedes, and AMG Petronas have to wonder how could Lewis Hamilton possibly lose this championship when he’s won 10 races? It would be almost unbelievable. That’s the negative spin.”

Diffey’s not convinced first or second is a sure thing for Hamilton, considering some of the obstacles he’s had to overcome this season.

“Lewis has had 3 DNFs, and two major qualifying incidents in Germany and Hungary. Just finishing first or second isn’t fait accompli,” he said. “We saw two races ago at our home race (in Austin), Rosberg was very good during the race, but by his own admission he was out of his rhythm. It was mystifying Lewis could close down and get by.

“Rosberg then … at the last race, Lewis brought down a 7.5-second lead to nothing, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Nico’s made us sit up a bit and watch. So maybe this will be a proper fight right down to the end. I’m always excited to call races, but fascinated for this one to have a twist.”

It should be a gripping finale. Watch for coverage on NBCSN at 8 a.m. ET Friday and Saturday for Free Practice 2 and Qualifying, respectively, with Grand Prix coverage beginning Sunday morning at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. All will be on NBC Sports Live Extra as well, and a full release with the rest of the weekend’s motorsports times on NBCSN and Live Extra will be out later this week.