Nico Ros­berg crowned F1 world cham­pion

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

Mercedes’ Nico Ros­berg is the 2016 world cham­pion, em­u­lat­ing his fa­ther Nico’s achieve­ment af­ter a tense 2016 Formula 1 Eti­had Air­ways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which he fin­ished a pig-in-themid­dle sec­ond as win­ning team mate Lewis Hamil­ton at­tempted to back him up as much as pos­si­ble into the clutches of Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel and Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen in an en­forced but finely judged mas­ter­class of race craft.

Less than two sec­onds cov­ered the top four at the che­quered flag as Hamil­ton ig­nored instructions from the Mercedes pit wall to up his pace in the clos­ing laps. Daniel Ric­cia­rdo fol­lowed his Red Bull team mate home, with Fer­rari's Kimi Raikko­nen tak­ing sixth ahead of Force In­dia’s Nico Hulken­berg and Ser­gio Perez. Wil­liams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fer­nando Alonso com­pleted the top ten.

The start saw the two Mercedes lead off the line, with Hamil­ton head­ing Ros­berg, as Raikko­nen passed Ric­cia­rdo for third. Things got worse for Red Bull as Ver­stap­pen, in sixth, ran out of room ex­it­ing Turn 1 and spun af­ter mak­ing light con­tact with Hulken­berg.

That forced the team to switch the Dutch­man to a one-stop strat­egy as he fell to last place, and would have its ef­fect later on.

Hamil­ton and Ros­berg moved clear un­til their first pit stops, re­spec­tively on the sev­enth and eighth laps, af­ter which Hamil­ton led again but with Ver­stap­pen hav­ing risen to sec­ond ahead of Ros­berg.

The Ger­man was then con­tent to fol­low him for the next 12 laps be­fore fi­nally slic­ing by the Red Bull, with a closely-fought but cru­cial pass. Af­ter that he got the throt­tle down, cut­ting a 5.8s gap to Hamil­ton to 3.1s by the time they stopped again, on laps 28 and 29.

That was when Hamil­ton was forced to try to back up his team mate, as he needed him to fin­ish fourth or worse, and the gap came down to less than a sec­ond there­after as the out­go­ing cham­pion did all he could to let Fer­rari and Red Bull catch up.

When Fer­rari kept Vet­tel out un­til lap 37 be­fore switch­ing him to su­per­soft tyres, when every­one else was run­ning softs, the Ger­man sud­denly be­came the dan­ger­man.

He passed team mate Raikko­nen for fifth on the 41st lap, then set out af­ter Ric­cia­rdo, who was hav­ing a sub­dued run in fourth. He passed the Red Bull on lap 47, and that set up the fi­nal show­down.

On his worn softs - he had pit­ted on lap 21 - Ver­stap­pen just wasn’t able to get closer than within three sec­onds of Ros­berg as Hamil­ton con­tin­ued to lap at a rel­a­tively slow pace de­spite be­ing im­plored - and at times di­rectly told - to speed up by his Mercedes bosses.

Vet­tel even­tu­ally out-dragged Ver­stap­pen’s Red Bull on the 51st lap, and Hamil­ton, Ros­berg and he then cir­cu­lated nose to tail. They were hav­ing kit­tens at Mercedes, es­pe­cially as Hamil­ton told them quite tren­chantly that if he was los­ing the world cham­pi­onship he didn’t par­tic­u­larly care if he lost the race as well.

In the end, of course, he was never go­ing to do that. He did ev­ery­thing that he could, and crossed the fin­ish line 0.4s ahead af­ter 55 laps to score his 10th win of the sea­son, the 53rd of his ca­reer - and to lose his world title.

Ros­berg kept his cool de­spite the pres­sure from Vet­tel, but said it had been tough.

For Vet­tel, third was a de­cent way to fin­ish the sea­son, with Ver­stap­pen tak­ing fourth from his team mate and the dis­tant Raikko­nen.

Hulken­berg took a fine sev­enth for Force In­dia, and with team mate Ser­gio Perez eighth Force In­dia eas­ily se­cured their fourth po­si­tion in the con­struc­tors’ stakes. But Perez only just got home ahead of the fight­ing Wil­liams of Felipe Massa, who signed off on his F1 ca­reer by main­tain­ing his record of scor­ing points in each Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in which he has com­peted, and Fer­nando Alonso, who took the fi­nal point for McLaren.

Mercedes driver Nico Ros­berg of Ger­many cel­e­brates af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond to win the 2016 world cham­pi­onship dur­ing the Emi­rates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Ma­rina race­track in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates yes­ter­day Pho­to­graph: AP

Nico Ros­berg stands on his car as he cel­e­brates win­ning the World Cham­pi­onship

Nico Ros­berg cel­e­brates by kiss­ing his car at the end of the GP

Nico Ros­berg is car­ried aloft by his team me­chan­ics af­ter win­ning the 2016 world cham­pi­onship

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