Brazil GP: Rosberg and Hamilton resume title duel at Interlagos

    Story highlights

    • Nico Rosberg could win F1 title on Sunday
    • Has intense rivalry with teammate Hamilton
    • Ross Brawn: "Both men very passionate"
    • Hamilton intends to fight to "the bitter end"

    (CNN)Brazil's Interlagos circuit is set to take center stage in the battle to see who will be crowned 2016 Formula One world champion.

    Once again, the focus is on the often fraught rivalry between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
      Rosberg leads the Briton by 19 points heading into the penultimate race of the season and victory on Sunday will secure his first drivers' title, but the German will also be crowned champion if Hamilton finishes down the order.
      "It's awesome to be fighting for the world championship with two races to go and so, yeah, excited about the weekend, looking forward to it and of course going to try to go for the win," Rosberg said at the driver's pre-race press conference.
      Three-time champion Hamilton has never won the Brazilian Grand Prix but if he takes the checkered flag the title will be decided at the season finale in Abu Dhabi later this month.

      F1 2016 drivers championship (after 19/21 rounds)

      Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 349 points

      Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 330

      Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 242

      Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 187

      Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 178

      The Mercedes driver's duel has occasionally turned ugly. The pair clashed on the track in a second-corner incident at the Spanish Grand Prix in May this year, putting them both out of the race. They also collided at the climax of the Austrian Grand Prix in July.
      Tensions have spilled over off the track too.
      Ahead of last year's podium ceremony at the US Grand Prix, Hamilton tossed a cap in Rosberg's direction only for the German to frustratedly sling it back -- Hamilton's had just clinched the world title with victory in Austin.
      But while the relations between two drivers has been strained at times, it's never reached breaking point -- a testament to the Mercedes team's man-management skills, argues Ross Brawn, who was team principal at the German constructor from 2010 to 2013.
      "They've had their ups and down," Brawn told CNN, but believes they are both happy at Mercedes and want to stay.
      "If you look at Prost-Senna or other situations where two drivers are fighting genuinely for a world championship, it's a pretty delicate situation. It's easy for that stuff to boil over.
      "I think it's a testament to both Nico and Lewis and the management of the team which has kept it fairly level."
      Ross Brawn on the Mercedes driver rivalry
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      'New heights'

      Brawn, who was technical director at Ferrari when Michael Schumacher dominated the championship, says he enjoyed working with both men and thought the competition between the two was driving them to new heights.
      "They are experienced, they are mature ... both very passionate about F1 -- but different.
      "Lewis has a different profile outside of the car to Nico -- they are almost opposite ends of the scale," he said.
      The season has been an intriguing one with the advantage swinging between the German and British drivers.
      Rosberg started well only for Hamilton to claw his way back into the lead.
      The current world champion was then frustrated by a series of mechanical problems and appeared to lose focus in Japan when he played with his cellphone in a pre-race press conference.
      Then at the last race in Mexico, Rosberg struggled for pace in qualifying and lost points to Hamilton even as the prospect of becoming champion loomed.
      The German is looking to emulate his dad Keke who won the 1982 world championship to become the second father and son -- after Graham Hill and son Damon -- to win F1 world titles.

      'Fight to the bitter end'

      But Hamilton is determined not to give up his title without a fight.
      "I'm going to keep pushing," he told F1.com. "Since the beginning of my F1 career I've seen that everything can change even at the very last moment, so you have to fight to the bitter end.
      "I've never won in Brazil, so I go into this weekend focused on changing that."
      Interlagos often produces a hot and intense race -- and half of the last 16 races have seen incidents that brought out the safety car.
      Whoever wins the title, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo has already secured third place. He can't catch the Mercedes drivers and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is too far behind to be a threat.
      It will be a sad day for veteran driver Felipe Massa who is due to race in his last grand prix on home soil. During his career he has clocked up two wins in Brazil, five podium finishes and more laps there than anyone else on the current grid.
      "Interlagos is home. It's the place I grew up," he said.