Nico Rosberg’s valiant return to form has been all the talk in the last three races, after the Mercedes driver has taken the last six pole positions and won the last three races of the season.
There has been some speculation as to whether this is an engineered result from Mercedes given that Lewis Hamilton has already taken the title, and that his form is now somewhat influenced by his ‘party goer’ lifestyle.
If anyone has seen Hamilton race before the Mercedes glory years they’ll know that like every other driver out on the grid, he has the burning ambition to win. This whole season has been about him emulating his hero Ayrton Senna, a driver who once said “Second is first of the losers.” The aftermath of all the partying might have taken its toll on the ‘homework’ Hamilton has done post race weekend, but he’s just as fast as he ever was.
Nico is just faster. Whether he continues such form into pre-season testing and at the first race in Melbourne next year, is perhaps where we’ll see if he truly has found something over his teammate. But for the moment, given the fact that he is in the same machinery as Lewis and has been slightly more aggressive at the starts, I think we can safely assume that Rosberg has managed to simultaneously shown the shades of aggressiveness we got at races like Bahrain earlier in the year, whilst playing the strategy card beautifully in his favour.
Another element the weekend brought out was the resurgence of Force India. Unlike the last couple of races where they have had to go conservative in qualifying and practice in order to make their strategy work in the race, they were able to push from the get-go in Abu Dhabi, with Sergio Perez impressing with a third place during Saturday morning practice.
Nico Hulkenberg has been on the missing list as far as I’m concerned in Checo’s wake. Since his Le Mans victory I haven’t seen anything from him that significant, with him pulling off more rookie errors than Max Verstappen at times.
Their driver lineup remains unchanged for 2016, although the main story with them is the rebrand to ‘Aston Martin Racing’ – a rumour that seems to have taken more traction after seeing former Aston chief David Richards on the world feed at one stage during the weekend.
Kimi Raikkonen seemed to inherit his teammates car over the weekend, taking most of the spoils by finishing ahead in all the sessions and on the podium in the race. It’s the sort of form I always expected from Kimi, rather than the lacklustre, somewhat dogged by bad luck moments he’s had throughout the course of his second outing with Ferrari.
I’m 99 per-cent sure the regulations don’t suit Kimi right now. Reliability seems to be his main issues through all of this, something that he always had problems with when he joined McLaren in 2003. Its no surprise that his form was at its best we’ve seen since 2007 when he rejoined the F1 circus with Lotus – when the 2.8 litre V8’s were considered to be the most reliable engines we’ve had for decades.
Time will tell whether Raikkonen eventually gets bored of switching to engine save modes or nursing tires to a delta lap time. Ferrari seem fine with the idea of his occasional spikes in performance, all whilst Sebastien Vettel becomes their next title prospect. Their car should challenge for more race wins next year, but I will be keeping a close eye on the fans favourite as he becomes more like 2009-spec Kimi.
It seems like some of the teams be in for a winter of discontent, with Red Bull yet to announce an engine partner, Lotus verging on bankruptcy, and McHonda set for another year of misery.
From the offset one might say that the delays in Renault’s planned takeover of Lotus and Red Bull’s engine supply story are linked, which is why its taking so long for both to reveal their futures in the sport. For sure the soft drinks company looks set to continue after announcing multiple sponsor renewals on Thursday along with a new watch sponsor, despite spending most of the year bitching about the current regulations.
McHonda meanwhile look like they’re in a race against time to fix their heat-related problems. Mark Hughes revealed in October that Honda are set for more “misery” in 2016 because they may not meet the homologation deadline on February 28th. Whilst I believe that a car company with their resources have good lead times, they may well be tight as they reduce staff over Christmas and fix issues they find over pre-season testing. Their car next year should be better, but I fear it will be another year of picking up the scraps for Alonso and Button.
Thankfully for them, 2015 is just history now. Its been a tough season to digest at points, but we’ve had some classics in there. Hungary undoubtably stands out as not only being a great race, but also because of the unity the drivers showed in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s passing. Standing under 10ft away from the champion elect at Silverstone on what was a brilliant weekend of F1 on home soil was also a personal highlight of mine.
It may be 109 days until the season gets back underway in Melbourne, but at least we’re set for one of the longest with 21 races planned.