Nico’s Nutcracker Suite
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
After a brutal battle for the title, Nico Rosberg emerged victorious – but Lewis made him suffer
History will record the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as another Mercedes one-two nish, with Lewis Hamilton to the fore. It will also note that Nico Rosberg secured enough points to win his rst Formula 1 world title and triumph over his career-long sparring partner.
What those results fail to do, however, is tell the story of an exquisitely intense nale to a fraught season; of a race-management masterclass by Hamilton, but also of a rival who proved himself capable of withstanding the most intense pressure to emerge victorious.
As the laps ticked down around the Yas Marina circuit, Rosberg, in P2 and tailing Hamilton by around a second, was a walnut in a vice. Hamilton was lapping at a pace of less than 1m 46s and doing so with subtle racecraft. Through sector 1, down the pit straight and through T1 to T4, he was on it, keeping enough of a gap to Rosberg to prevent his team-mate from closing to within DRS range. Thereafter, through the T5/T6 chicane, the hairpin, then T8/T9, he was achingly slow, gliding the car on part-throttle at points where he knew Rosberg would be unable to mount an attack. Then he’d sprint away along the second straight. Despite repeated urging from his team to up his pace, he was reversing Rosberg into the clutches of Max Verstappen and the fast-approaching supersoft-shod Seb Vettel.
This was precisely Hamilton’s intention, of course. Winning the race would not be enough to secure him a fourth title; he also needed Rosberg to nish fourth or lower – and letting Max and Seb attack Nico was his best chance.
Rosberg was clearly reluctant to take Lewis on in a straight ght and risk letting slip the title on which he had already placed a hand. Neither did he want to become embroiled in a tussle with Vettel or Verstappen, both of whom could sniff the chance of an against-the-odds victory. Nico had no desire to be the collateral damage of another man’s all-or-nothing lunge, so this would