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Mansell expects Hamilton fightback
Nigel Mansell believes this year's Formula One world title race will go down to the wire when the sport's controversial new points rule will be in the dock.
The 1992 world champion, serving as a steward over the course of this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, is fully expecting Lewis Hamilton to mount a comeback and take the championship scrap into the final round of 19 in Abu Dhabi in November.
Hamilton heads into his home event trailing Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by 29 points and in desperate need of a result to quell the German's forward momentum following a run of three grands prix in which he has heavily outscored the Briton.
Friday practice proved to be bitter-sweet for Hamilton as he finished the day top of the times by almost a quarter of a second from Rosberg, only to suffer an engine failure 30 minutes from the end that brought him to a halt out on the Northamptonshire track.
Mansell, though, feels Hamilton should be far from concerned with the current title picture, even if the 29-year-old is likely feeling the pressure ahead of the event.
That is because for the final race there will be double points on offer, which has been universally derided, in particular by fans.
"Lewis is a few points behind, but there are so many more races to go, it's nothing really with the way the system works now," said Mansell, when asked by Press Association Sport about the title race.
"In years gone by it would have been a deficit, but I don't see it as a hiccup, or a problem.
"In fact, it could be an advantage because if Lewis starts to perform a little better than Nico, then the pressure will transfer from him on to Nico because he will then be defending his lead.
"But Nico is a quick driver, under-rated, and he comes from great stock with his dad Keke a champion.
"He is quieter, more thoughtful, but he is doing an absolutely fabulous job, and Lewis isn't doing anything wrong. H e just needs to concentrate, settle down a little, and enjoy a little bit more luck.
"In Formula One you need something you can't buy or that someone can't create to put on the car.
"It's going to be fascinating, but don't under-estimate Nico because he is a class act, a great driver. He is doing what needs to be done.
"Lewis has a challenge, but I think he is up for it."
Mansell is convinced the stage is set for a last-race duel, adding: "I think it will come down to that.
"I really do believe the last race with double points will decide the championship, and that will be exciting either way. But I'm not going to do either an injustice by saying which of them will win it.
"They've both the same equipment, they've the same support from the team, and so they've the same opportunity.
"That's why this is so exciting because you can place under the microscope anything you want because it's so close."
Despite Hamilton's problems in second practice, Mansell is hoping the 29-year-old avoids any further issues and he and Rosberg can go toe-to-toe around Silverstone.
"For the race this weekend there is far more pressure on Lewis than on Nico because it's his home grand prix and the fans expect him to deliver," assessed Mansell.
"I'm sure he's going to be super-quick, but I hope for both of them their cars are reliable because they can put on a fabulous display.
"Mercedes are to be congratulated because they are allowing their drivers to race."
Hamilton finished 0.228secs ahead of Rosberg at the end of the two 90-minute Friday sessions, with his best lap a one minute 34.508secs.
Again, as in FP1, only Fernando Alonso finished within a second of the dominant Mercedes duo, with the Ferrari star 0.736secs adrift of Hamilton.
Red Bull pairing Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel were fourth and fifth quickest, respectively, just over a second off the pace, with Williams' Valtteri Bottas 1.5secs down in sixth.
Bottas, however, concluded a troubled day for Williams with a bang underneath the engine cover that exploded through the bodywork when the Finn was out on track.
Bottas had returned to his car following a first session for Susie Wolff that unfortunately ended after just 20 minutes with an engine failure due to an oil pressure problem inside the Mercedes power unit.
As the first woman in 22 years to take part in an F1 weekend, and only the sixth overall, Wolff's day in the spotlight resulted in the Scot managing one timed lap before pulling off track.
As for team-mate Felipe Massa, the Brazilian spun off at Stowe and crashed heavily into a barrier, only for his team to perform wonders by getting him back on track for FP2, at the end of which he finished 11th, just over two seconds back.
McLaren's Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were seventh and eight best, respectively, both 1.7secs down, with Marussia's Max Chilton in 21st and 4.7secs in arrears.