Nico Rosberg is the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion! His first ever F1 title and an end to a very tense season for the Mercedes drivers. Hamilton won the final race but with Rosberg finishing second, the points were enough to grant him the moment of a lifetime, he now enters the next season as the defending champion. All Nico needed was to finish third or better, regardless of where Hamilton would be, and even though Vettel launched a vicious attack in the final laps, the Mercedes cars stuck together in 1st and 2nd all the way to the finish line.

That said, Vettel finished third. In the standings however, it was Ricciardo who finished third, Red Bull and Ferrari claimed second and third respectively in the constructors’ standings.

Abu Dhabi GP 2016 Results

1. Hamilton
2. Rosberg
3. Vettel
4. Verstappen
5. Ricciardo
6. Raikkonen
7. Hulkenberg
8. Perez
9. Massa
10. Alonso

The Abu Dhabi GP 2016 is the final F1 round of the year, the 21st race. The condition was simple, if Hamilton was to win, Rosberg needed to finish no lower than third in order to claim his first ever F1 world championship title. The race was not all about the title deciders though, Felipe Massa and Jenson Button were marking their final drives in F1 as they both retire after this season.

As a reminder, all the top ten started on ultrasoft tires besides the Red Bull drivers, Ricciardo and Verstappen who were on supersofts. After the formation lap, the start went smoothly with Hamilton leading Rosberg after turn 1. Verstappen however spun on that first turn while Magnussen had to pit for a new front wing.

After lap 2/55 and with the dust settled, Hamilton led the race away from Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso, Bottas and Massa. Hamilton also posted the fastest lap on 1m46.846s. Verstappen had fallen back out of the top ten after the spin but the tactical Dutchman managed to wade his way through and was running in P10 after 8 laps.

[Photos by Philipp Rupprecht]

Hamilton made his first stop after lap 7, picking up softs and so did Raikkonen who followed him into the pits almost immediately. The Mercedes rejoined in P7 after losing a bit of time due to Raikkonen coming in, Rosberg was also asked to box, and at the same time with Vettel, the championship leader lost 4.8s in that stop.

On lap 11/55 after the first series of stops, the order was Hamilton, Verstappen, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Button, Grosjean.

“Something feels a bit wrong with the steering…yeah, we’ve got a failure guys.” That was Button after going off track, and a bad ending to his F1 career as it resulted to his premature retirement from the race.

Red Bull meanwhile continued to encourage Verstappen who was still in second, “Ok Max, this is all we need at the moment, this is all we need. Great job, keep it clean.” Rosberg was indeed playing it safe, he had a number of chances to pass Verstappen but chose to stay put behind, knowing well that the Red Bulls and Ferraris were the two teams capable of denying him a title win.

On lap 20/55, Mercedes radioed Rosberg, “It’s critical now that we pass Verstappen,” and Verstappen later reported that his tires were fading out. Rosberg managed to pass the Red Bull and was instantly urged to “Catch the back of Lewis.” The German answered that with a 1m46.022s fastest lap putting him 4.7s behind Hamilton.

Verstappen made his first stop after 21 laps and rejoined in P8, he moved one spot up moments later after passing teammate Ricciardo who stopped for another set of softs. Raikkonen also stopped for softs, but it was Verstappen who was making all the moves ahead, the Red Bull was now in P5 after passing Perez.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 28/55, he rejoined in P3 with a new set of softs. Rosberg pitted two laps later and rejoined in third, promoting Hamilton to second, Vettel stayed in P1 but was yet to stop.

Vettel stopped again on lap 38, handing over the lead to Hamilton, the Ferrari opted for supersofts. There was also contact between Ocon and Nasr at the back of the field forcing both drivers to pit. After 40 laps the order was Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Massa and Alonso.

Sainz and Palmer collided which ultimately resulted to the retirement of the Toro Rosso, the gearbox failed after that incident. At the front Hamilton was trying all tricks, reducing his pace to stir things behind but for Rosberg, all he needed was a second place. This forced the Brit to increase his pace, he was also informed that Vettel was a threat.

Four laps left and nothing seemed to change, Rosberg was sure of his win by this point, having held second throughout and with only 1.3s separating him from Hamilton. The Brit’s title streak would have to pause this year.

“Lewis this is Paddy. We need you to pick up the pace to win this race, that’s an instruction.” And the game was on, Vettel instantly passed Verstappen for third and was now all over Rosberg. There was only 0.5s separating the Mercedes cars though, the closest they got all day.

“Right now, I’m losing the world championship, so I’m not bothered if I’m going to lose the race,” said Hamilton in a state of despair. The last lap was no different, Hamilton won the race while Rosberg claimed the championship title.

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