The closing moments of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix were among the most entertaining of the 2016 season.
As Lewis Hamilton played every card in his armoury to keep his title hopes alive, Nico Rosberg had the job of being able to mount a challenge to his team-mate chasing his fourth world title, all while fending off mad Max Verstappen and the prancing horse of Sebastian Vettel.
The calls to Hamilton to pick the pace up by team boss Paddy Lowe (the highest in the chain of command) were the subject of debate, as many questioned whether his actions were sporting. For me he made those final 10 laps way more interesting than they would’ve been. Had Hamilton went into the distance in order to do what Toto Wolff described as “showing everyone he is the fastest racing car driver in the world,” we probably would’ve found F1 2016 to be somewhat of an anti-climax.
We already know Hamilton is quick, he managed to get pole position for the race! What those final laps showed was just how much he was willing to put on the line in order to match Vettel’s tally of titles – ironically a move that could’ve ended up in a Ferrari win.
From Mercedes point of view they were trying to conserve the 1-2 potential, and Hamilton slowing down the pace was going against that entirely. Will he get any sort of reprimand internally for it? It’s possible. But will he get the sack as Fleet Street claims? No. Lewis is too box office for Mercedes to let go, tensions will be ripe now but once the Christmas break gets underway they’ll end up coming back in February and it will have all subsided.
Of course we shouldn’t lose grasp of what Rosberg had managed to achieve, as he joined the exclusive club of Formula 1 world champions and the very exclusive club of father/son accomplishment, which only featured Graham and Damon Hill up to now.
Although there have been times I have questioned Rosberg’s judgement in the last three years of the hybrid era – Monaco and Spa 2014 spring to mind, along with moments in 2015 – he has been a worthy challenge to Hamilton. People also seem to forget that he was on the bad luck end of the stick in 2014, when a simple throttle actuator worth 50p failed during the Russian Grand Prix and shattered his title hopes that year.
His campaign this year has been solid, he won the races he needed to and was consistently ahead of Hamilton in the championship standings. And when it came to making the moves on track, he made them, particularly on Sunday when he had to make a risky move on Verstappen in order to prevent Red Bull from ‘overcutting’ them during the next pit stop.
It’s those moves that you know make a champion. We seen it with Button’s drive in Brazil 2009, with Raikkonen’s in 2007, and with Sebastian Vettel’s in 2012.
Rosberg has been apart of Mercedes turbo electric hybrid project ever since it’s conception in 2010, so his title win will go down as a popular one in the team. It’s good to see some variety in an otherwise ‘set’ sport when it comes to the running order, although hopefully that will change with the new regulations next year.
Will Rosberg be able to defend his crown? Or will there be more challenges from the non-silver cars next year? Hopefully the last 10 laps of Abu Dhabi serve not only as a reminder of the intense political element of the sport, but also as an omen for the years to come competitiveness wise.
We’ll be one world champion down on the grid from next though, as Jenson Button completed his farewell in what were rather disappointing circumstances. I was nearly in tears when I seen the McLaren slow with a clear suspension failure, because I felt Button deserved better. His antic’s post-race on Sky Sports (when he’d clearly had a few before going on air!) reminded us all just how much we’ll miss him, although hopefully we’ll see some TV appearances in the European races from everyone’s favourite Brit.
A farewell must also be said to Herbie Blash, who after 20 years is stepping down as Deputy Race Director. Anyone who has watched the podium ceremony will have seen Herbie either ushering the drivers to the pre-celebration room or reminding them to be weighted as part of the post-race scruitineering process. He’s a great character in the paddock, and as far as I’m aware an F1 legend for having not missed a race since the 1970s. Hopefully our paths will cross at some point, but for now I would like to wish Herbie a good retirement.
And that’s it. After 21 adventures, we finally have our world champion! It’s been a long season but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about it and commenting on it as always. Thanks ever so much for reading my post-weekend ramblings, I’ll still have content up over the winter break although it will be more sporadic until we get going again at some point in January.
With that I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Photo Credit: XPB Images