The final Grand Prix of 2016 was a very atypical race, despite the typical result. For the fourth race in succession, Lewis Hamilton led home his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to secure the team’s eighth one-two finish of the season, with the German securing his first world championship, thirty-four years after his dad Keke achieved the feat.
Rosberg came into the weekend knowing that a podium would win him the championship regardless of where Hamilton finished, and everything looked to be going to plan as he got a clean getaway, slotting in just behind his teammate. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen would also have been hoping for a good start as he battled for fourth in the championship, but a spin on the first corner put him in last place. However, clever strategy from the team, and the usual decisive overtaking from the Dutchman put him in second place after the front runners pitted for the first time.
One of the main criticisms of Rosberg over the past few years has been his overtaking skills, especially when compared to Hamilton. However, he pulled off a brave overtake on lap 19 to overtake Verstappen, with the two cars coming close to touching on more than one occasion, before proceeding to catch up to Hamilton. After everyone had made their final stops, the Mercedes duo looked to be heading for a comfortable win, and Rosberg would have been dreaming of his first title.
Realising that the title was slipping out of his grasp, Hamilton began to control the pace more carefully, slowing down in the final sector on each lap, where overtaking is nigh-on impossible, to allow Verstappen and the fast charging Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel to catch up, with Vettel gaining over two seconds a lap at times. The team, sensing that the win was at threat, asked Hamilton to speed up, with the Brit replying that they should ‘let us race’. As the laps counted down, the gap shrunk and shrunk, before the top 4 cars were all within 5 seconds of each other. Vettel managed to get passed Verstappen, and set his sights on the leading two cars, as he searched for his first win of the season. With Verstappen’s tyres beginning to lose all grip, Lewis slowed down even more, but Rosberg defended resolutely from Vettel’s onslaught, holding on to second place, doing donuts on the pit straight to celebrate a hard fought triumph.
Hamilton’s anguish at losing the championship was clear to see at the end of the race. He ended the season with more wins and pole positions than his teammate. It was reliability issues, such as his engine failure while in the lead in Malaysia that arguably cost him the title. However, bad starts from the Brit in three of the races this season, as well as a horrendous qualifying in Baku, may have proved just as costly to his title hopes.
Many teams and fans will be hoping that the new regulations next season help to halt the dominance of the Mercedes team, who have won 51 of the 59 races since the hybrid era began in 2014. Wider tyres are just one of the changes being made, with the drivers hoping that the new rubber will help them push harder for longer. If that is the case, don’t be surprised if the next season features many more races like this, where the result is up for grabs right until the final corner.
Featured Image: Daily Mirror