Recap Rosberg’s title glory as Hamilton won the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP.
The duel in the desert become a game of follow the leader as Hamilton backed Rosberg into the pack for his only hope of retaining his crown. But when Vettel and co. failed to join his party, Rosberg partied into the night with his first World Drivers’ Championship in the bag.
1) Rosberg takes the title
When the chequered flag fell in Australia all the way back on March 20th, Rosberg etched his name above the rest of the field as his end of 2015 form flowed into the New Year. Going on to pick up the first place trophy at each of the opening four rounds.
Rosberg’s start to the season at Formula One’s fly away races also saw Nico set his best set of consecutive results with seven wins in a row. A feat only matched by Michael Schumacher & Alberto Ascari and beaten by Sebastian Vettel.
When Rosberg connected five Grand Prix victories together come the end of the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, Nico joined seven other drivers in doing so. All of which had gone on to then take the drivers’ title come the end of that year. A feat Nico has now matched.
In all, during Rosberg’s title-winning season he went on to win a total of nine Grand Prix’s to move his career tally to 23. While also taking to the podium a further seven times in 2016 and scoring points in 20 of the 21 rounds.
2) Hamilton races for himself despite team orders
After picking up his ninth win of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Hamilton ensured the title fight would go down to the wire at the season-finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. A race he would begin from his 12th pole of the campaign.
But starting on pole and driving off into the sunset would not be enough for Hamilton to scupper his team-mate and retain the title. Rosberg had to finish off the podium.
But even a bad race for Rosberg would easily see the German claim a podium place, after the Mercedes duo laid down an unbeatable marker for their rivals across practice. Lewis had to take things into his own hands.
During the first stint of the race, Lewis controlled things out in front as he got a good launch to lead out of the first corner. Then once pit stops began, the pace dipped off as he looked to back Rosberg into the pack.
Repeatedly from here until the chequered flag Mercedes ordered Hamilton to up his pace as Vettel began to pose a potential threat to their win with his contrasting strategy. But this was not going to stop Lewis.
He knew what he had to do and attempted to do so. Lowering his pace again and again to at one point lap nine-seconds off his early pace and two-seconds down on what Vettel was setting.
But once Vettel picked his way passed Verstappen for third, his threat ended. Cruising behind the championship leader while Verstappen slightly dropped away. Title Rosberg.
Rosberg could have attempted a move on Hamilton himself for the lead of the race. But with only a podium finish needed, a move on Hamilton could have proved more damaging to his title hopes had any contact been made.
3) Hamilton claims no wrongdoing
Mercedes may have given Hamilton multiple direct orders to pick up his pace as Vettel became a threat, but Lewis believes he did no wrong. Fighting for the championship against his team-mate, a situation that was always likely given Mercedes’ dominance.
“I don’t think I did anything dangerous, I don’t think I did anything unfair,” said Hamilton. “We were fighting for the championship, I was in the lead so I control the pace. That is the rules.
“There was never a moment where I feel I was going to lose the race. It is a shame that it is quite clear their thought process… and I don’t have much to say to be honest.
“I was hoping he [Vettel] would close up but his tyres were going off towards the end and Nico drove well to not make mistakes.
“It was pretty chilled at the end. It may have been intense for you but not intense for me. For me, I am in a position where I had a lot of points lost during the season so for me I am out there fighting and generally never try to do anything to harm the team or the brand.
“But we won the constructors’ championship so it was down to me and Nico today. However, they felt they still needed to make comments. We will discuss it afterwards as we all do.”
4) Wolff feared Ferrari threat
Before Hamilton could talk to the team, Toto Wolff expressed why the pit wall felt the need to ask Lewis to pick up his pace. Expressing his thoughts on what he would have done in the Briton’s position.
“I was in a bit of a schizophrenic situation,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “There’s the control freak, team leader, that has a rulebook and everyone has to obey it – and that’s how we got to where we are.
“Then there’s the racer in me and I was questioning what I would have done. [Hamilton] had two situations – one, disappear into the distance and show he’s the best racing driver and it could have been his season. Or he could back [Nico] up, and that’s what he decided to do. I’m a little bit in two minds.
“This is what I mean as a racing driver. It would have come to my mind [to back him up] and it came to others’ mind. Christian [Horner, Red Bull boss] had the same idea before the weekend, he followed Christian’s instruction so maybe he wants to drive for him! You see, I’m going from one side to the other side [in my mind].
“We could let them off the leash completely and have less rules, but the consequence would be we would win less races and we would be losing championships, because there are some other clever blokes on the pitwall.
“And there’s one philosophy we’ve followed all through the years, which is: we will not interfere, as long as we can guarantee the race win. And there was a situation here where we calculated we would lose the race, because [Lewis] was getting slower and slower.”
5) Change of racing control at Mercedes
Over the past three years, the title fight has come down to Rosberg and Hamilton battling it out to be the best in Formula One. A fight Hamilton has won on two occasions, before Rosberg fought back in 2016 and showed his improved inner strength.
But over the course of the past three years, there have been a handful of occasions where things have gone too far and contact has been made.
Notably from the 2014 season, when Rosberg’s mistake in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix meant Hamilton could not complete his potentially faster flying lap. An incident that raised the pressure between the Mercedes drivers.
Then came the Belgian Grand Prix where Rosberg’s pre-summer frustrations meant he was over eager to get ahead of Hamilton. Lingering on the outside of the track, causing contact and puncturing Lewis’ tyre as he aimed to prove he would not be pushed over.
2015, on the other hand, had fewer high-level comings together between Hamilton and Rosberg. With the United States Grand Prix one of the few as Hamilton forced Rosberg off track in the race he went on to claim his third title.
Then came the 2016 season. A season that started with Rosberg wrapping up the wins as Hamilton struggled for reliability. Crashing into Europe as the two Silver Arrows collided in Barcelona.
And now on the back of Hamilton forcing Rosberg into the pack, a change may be afoot at Mercedes.
“We need to look at the overall situation and say what does it mean?” expressed Wolff to motorsport.com about what action Mercedes may take from here.
“Everything is possible, from let’s change the rules for next year because it doesn’t work in those critical races, to maybe we want to give them even more freedom in racing each other.
“Or we could go to the more harsh side that we feel the values were not respected. This is 180 degrees, and I’m not sure yet where the needle is going to go.”
6) The final dominant Grand Prix for Mercedes?
With regulation changes coming in 2017, could the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix be the final dominant race for the Silver Arrows? A team that has dominated Formula One since 2014, when hybrid power units became a controlling force.
Since then, the aero-strong Red Bull team fell backwards down the order from the controlling force to second best. Ending 2015 in fourth place as Ferrari and Williams leapt ahead.
2016 then showed signs of Red Bull coming back to the fore. Picking up the only non-Mercedes wins of the season.
And with the greater importance of aerodynamics in 2017, could Red Bull be the team to beat once more rather than Mercedes?
Only time will tell who has the best 2017 car, with pre-season testing not beginning until the end of February and racing kicking off from March. But should Red Bull have a better car than Mercedes in 2017, Saturday 26th November 2016 will go down in history as the last time the Silver Arrows hybrid machine ran at full-tilt – when Hamilton put on a qualifying master class to clinch the final pole of the year.
And in the race, too, Hamilton showed the Mercedes was in a class of its own as even when not running flat out to back Rosberg into the pack, Hamilton finished comfortably in first place as Ferrari and Red Bull failed to challenge them.
7) Force India finish fourth in Constructors’ Championship
Dubbed the best pound for pound team in Formula One, Force India was a team on the move in 2016. Leaping ahead of Williams in the Constructors’ Championship to end the year as the best privateer team.
Throughout the season, Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg brought home points for the Silverstone team. Outscoring Williams by 35-points, with Valtteri Bottas’ Abu Dhabi retirement confirming Force India’s position.
Force India also claimed one more podium finish than Williams, while both teams suffered six retirements each across the season.
8) Farewell to Button and Massa
As the curtain fell on the 2016 Formula One season, the curtain fell on two careers too. With Felipe Massa and Jenson Button racing in their final Grand Prix.
For Jenson, his career in F1 began back in 2000 when BMW Williams gave the 20-year-old Somerset boy a shot following a shoot-out with Bruno Junqueira after Alex Zanardi left the team. Finishing his debut year eighth in the championship on 12-points.
But it was not until the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, when Jenson would win his first Grand Prix. Even after finishing the 2004 championship third in the standings.
Button’s 06 Hungarian win, however, would be his only win for the next three seasons before Honda pulled the plug on their F1 program – leaving Button without a drive.
With Honda out, Ross Brawn bought what he could of the team and entered the ’09 season as a privateer team. Racing Button alongside Barrichello for BrawnGP. A team that would go on to take both the drivers’ title and constructor’s championship in their only year in the sport. With Jenson taking six wins and four poles on way to his Formula One title.
As for Massa, the Brazilian’s time in Formula One began in 2002 with the Red Bull Sauber Petronas team. A team he would race for in 2002, 2004 and 2005, while joining Ferrari for 2003 as the team’s test driver.
Massa would then go on to join Ferrari as the team’s race driver for the 2006 season. Finishing his first season with the Italian outfit third in the standings, before fighting for the title against Hamilton in ‘08. A title he would miss out on by a single point.
Five years on, 2013 would prove to be Massa’s final season at Ferrari. Leaving Maranello with 11 victories to his name and joining Williams for 2014 to race alongside Valtteri Bottas.
At Williams, Felipe went on to achieve five more podium finishes. With his last coming at the 2015 Italian Grand Prix. Helping the team to two third-place finishes in the constructors’ standings.
As a special farewell present, Williams gave Felipe his car from the 2016 Brazilian Grand Prix. The one he used for his final home Grand Prix, decorated with a special livery reading ‘Obrigado’ and ‘Massa’ in place of their sponsors’ logos.