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

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