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Hamilton chasing Rosberg at US Grand Prix

Nico Rosberg sat slumped in his chair, exhausted and exasperated after another race and world title was taken away by Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. Then came the hat toss seen around the world.

Hamilton chasing Rosberg at US Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton

These friends-turned rivals return to Texas and the U.S.

Grand Prix in very different places this week. This time, it's Rosberg with the big lead and Hamilton running out of time if he hopes to retain his Formula One championship.

Rosberg leads Hamilton by 33 points with four races left on the schedule. That means Hamilton has to make a big push starting Sunday on a track where he's won three of the last four years.

"America has been good hunting ground for me," Hamilton said.

A win streak alone won't do it. Hamilton needs a bad race from Rosberg somewhere. If Rosberg finishes second three times and finishes third once, he'll still claim his first career championship. A Rosberg victory anywhere along the way would all but clinch it.

"My frame of mind at the moment is to have fun," Hamilton said. "I'm determined to win. There's never a day in my life when I don't want to win. I could come here like I've got to win every race, but I've been racing a long time. I know what I'm doing so just go do it the best I can and enjoy." Is that concession?

"Absolutely not," Hamilton said. "There's still 100 points out there. It's possible."

Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who won a couple of close title chases, agreed.

"He's quick enough," Vettel said. "I'm sure he'll go for it. It's only over when it's over."

Rosberg may dictate when the end comes. He's been a different driver since his moment of post-race infamy in 2015.

After Hamilton clinched last season's title in Austin, he playfully tossed Rosberg his podium cap in the drivers' cool-down room. Rosberg immediately threw it back at him in a petulant moment captured on live television.

The split-second reaction symbolized the meltdown of Rosberg's title efforts and the relationship between two drivers who became friends when they were coming up through the junior circuits.

"Last year this race obviously didn't work out so great for me, so I'm looking forward to getting back out there and doing my best to get it right this time," Rosberg said.

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