The 29-year-old Briton leads his Mercedes team-mate and one-time teenage friend German Nico Rosberg by 17 points, a situation that is certain to deliver a Mercedes works team driver as the drivers' champion for the first time since 1955.

But it is also one that leaves the final outcome open to a myriad of permutations.

In any normal year, Hamilton could take the title with a top six finish in his supreme Mercedes car, no matter what Rosberg manages to achieve.

This season, however, thanks to the introduction of double points for the final race, the Englishman could be given another taste of the disappointment that he experienced in Brazil in 2007 and at the spectacular Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi in 2010.

In 2008, he won the title with a last corner overtake that delivered one of the sport's most dramatic finales after falling down the order when a rainstorm hit the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Rain is unlikely, if not improbable, on Sunday, but any kind of mechanical failure, that might stop or hamper the progress of either man, and therefore decide the outcome of a roller-coaster title race that has been tense and sometimes acrimonious, would be a nightmare too for the Mercedes team
who are horrified by that prospect.

"Clearly Lewis breaking down would be a nightmare," said team principal Tito Wolff.

"We want the championship to end in a straight and fair battle and not by one of them breaking down. We need to provide him with the most reliable car."

On recent form, Hamilton goes into Sunday's 55-lap race as favourite after winning five of the last six races, a run that was halted by Rosberg's retaliation in Brazil where he triumphed for the first time in eight races since the German Grand Prix in July.

That victory increased Rosberg's total to five for the season compared to Hamilton's 10.

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