The 2016 Formula One season just drew to a fascinating close around Abu Dhabi’s glittering Yas Marina circuit. Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battled it out in ‘#DuelInTheDesert: The Sequel’. Meanwhile, the rest of the field simply hoped they could end the year on a high.
It would be very easy for us to hand out our coveted ‘TOP DOG’ award to a number of drivers for their ‘Abu Dhabi Doo’ efforts.
Fernando Alonso once again dragged his McLaren-Honda into the heady heights of Q3 before battling his way to yet another points finish, a drive which included a fantastic move around the outside of Romain Grosjean’s Haas.
Max Verstappen looked to have spun it all away as he ploughed into the side of Nico Hulkenberg going through the first turn on lap one. As the cars crossed the finish line to start lap two he was last but one, however instead of letting his head drop the young Dutchman fought back brilliantly. He began to overtake cars like they were going backwards and nursed his supersoft tyres during a surprisingly long first stint. His reward was a fourth place he certainly didn’t come to Abu Dhabi for.
Sebastian Vettel tried out an even more oddball strategy than Verstappen’s. A huge middle stint on a set of soft tyres left Ferrari switching the German onto the faster supersoft towards the end of the race. He began to take chunks out of the leaders and carved his way past both Red Bulls. He tried his best to clear the Mercedes of Rosberg but he simply ran out of laps. It was great to see Vettel back on form again though after Kimi Raikkonen once again out qualified him on Saturday. He finished third.
Then there’s Lewis Hamilton. Controversial as his race strategy may have been, the way he began backing his own team-mate into the pack in the final stint was on the brink of being a masterstroke. Hamilton knew a fourth place for Rosberg and a win for himself would hand him his fourth world title. In the end, he came a heartbreakingly close 1.2 seconds, the gap between Rosberg and fourth placed Verstappen, from retaining his title. The Brit had been flawless for the majority of the weekend, but it just wasn’t enough.
This weekend, though, belonged to one man. Please step forward…
Yes, he was outqualified by his teammate. Yes, he also finished behind his team-mate. However today Nico Rosberg became the 2016 Formula One World Champion and he did it with such class that we feel it right he receives the final TOP DOG award of the season.
The keyword for Rosberg this weekend was always going to be ‘cautious’. Everything he did on track had to be safe and reserved unless absolutely necessary.
That moment of necessity came when he emerged from his first pit-stop behind Verstappen’s Red Bull. Mercedes immediately made it clear to Rosberg that he had to pass ‘the dutchie’ as quickly as he possibly could.
At times Rosberg has appeared to struggle with wheel-to-wheel combat with other cars. Today though he made it look easy. At the end of the first DRS straight Rosberg thrust his Mercedes up the inside of Verstappen. The Red Bull held it’s ground but Rosberg wasn’t going to be scared off with a title on the line, he simply brushed Verstappen off and continued on his merry way.
The move proved to be the one that, in all probability, won Rosberg the world championship; for if he hadn’t passed Verstappen when he did he may have lost out to Vettel later in the race.
Rosberg became F1’s 33rd world champion driver thirty-two years after his father, Keke, also won the title. Both father and son won their title by just five points and despite neither man winning the most races in those seasons, both thoroughly deserved their championships.
After the race, Rosberg celebrated by doing some rather fun donuts on the finish line before being the ultimate gentleman to Hamilton up on the podium. It didn’t take look before the intense emotions of the moment got the better of him. He treated the media with kindness and touchingly dedicated his championship win to the still recovering Michael Schumacher.
Rosberg knows the meaning of a team effort. Schumacher dedicated three years of his life into to helping Mercedes find the current path they find themselves on. We’re sure he’d be very proud of his former team-mate’s success.
So well done Nico, you’ve done your team, your family, your fans and most importantly yourself proud. 2016 belongs to you, and so does BadgerGP’s Abu Dhabi TOP DOG crown!