Three-time Formula One World Champion, and Abu Dhabi pole sitter, Lewis Hamilton, won the Formula One Etihad Airways Grand Prix, under the indigo skies of Abu Dhabi. Following Hamilton across the finish line was Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo.
“There have been a lot of great things that have happened this year. One in particular is the bond and relationship I have with my mechanics and engineers – my new mechanics – that joined my side of the garage. They did a fantastic job all year long. I think the working relationship has been better than ever, particularly going through all those experiences. There’s that and I was generally quickest most of the year, so it’s definitely been a positive, a lot of positives to take from it. So I take that into next season,” said Hamilton.
There have been a lot of great things that have happened this year. One in particular is the bond and relationship I have with my mechanics and engineers – my new mechanics – that joined my side of the garage. They did a fantastic job all year long. I think the working relationship has been better than ever, particularly going through all those experiences. There’s that and I was generally quickest most of the year, so it’s definitely been a positive, a lot of positives to take from it. So I take that into next season.
After 10 years in Formula1 racing, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won his first Formula One World Championship title. Hanging on to a second place podium finish, Rosberg’s title was never in doubt. He went into the race 12 points ahead of Hamilton and could have won the title whether he finished 2nd or third. The German driver has had a remarkable year on the track and was fortunate to have a reliable car throughout the race season. Congratulated with a double handshake by teammate, Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg celebrated his championship with his wife, mother, and father Keke Rosberg.
“All the people watching on TV who support me, all the people who come to the races, even this weekend, a lot of Germans out there and from the whole world, supporting me through the whole weekend. That’s really, really special. It’s a special feeling, a very unique feeling. I’m very thankful to all of them. And then of course the people closer to me. It’s my whole team, which is my racing family. I joined Mercedes in 2010 and it was a rough ride initially and now it’s come good in the last years and now it’s come good for me today – and that’s very, very special also,” said Rosberg.
He added: “The people that took me to Mercedes, that was Norbert Haug and Ross Brawn, Nick Fry, thanks to all of you to get me into Mercedes. That was the beginning of the story, and then of course Toto, massive thanks to Toto and Paddy and Niki for continuing it on and taking me to where I am today.”
Third off the starting line was Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo who had already secured a third place driver championship, but it was four-time champion driver Sebastian Vettel who took the podium with a third place finish.
“In the final laps, I would have liked to gain two more positions, because the speed was there; but it was difficult to make the move because the car in front also benefited from a tow. Nevertheless as a team we deserve this podium, and I hope it gives some momentum to all of us. It has been a tough year, with lots of up and downs, so I am really happy with this result. About our global performance in 2016, I think we don’t need to find any story or invent something. I think we expected more; but after the first half, where we could have scored more points, I think we showed real strength by coming back,” said Vettel.
Champion in waiting Max Verstappen, with Red Bull, was in sixth but worked his way up to finish fourth. Earlier in the week Verstappen left no doubt that he was in Abu Dhabi to race, not move aside and wave drivers through because they were in the lead for the championship. Verstappen is a young millennial who is not interested in the politics of racing, or yielding to more experienced drivers out of fear, or expectation. He is quickly gaining the attention of American fans that enjoy exciting wheel-to-wheel racing.
Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen came in fifth and sixth, respectively. Both Sahara Force India’s finished in the points at seventh and eighth. Rounding out the top ten were, retiring Williams driver Felipe Massa and McLaren-Honda Fernando Alonso.
McLaren-Honda will lose Jenson Button to semi-retirement in 2017. The beloved Brit drove his last race for McLaren but suffered a DNF in lap-12. Always calm and relaxed, Button took it all in stride and went back to the garage where the love and support of his mother and several friends wearing a ‘Button’ shirt were waiting to help him bid goodbye, to his team.
But the talking point of the evening was in the closing laps when race leader Lewis Hamilton appeared to slow the pace of the pace, a race leaders right, but some have said, “Rosberg panicked” and was heard on team radio telling them to order Hamilton to speed up or give up the position to him because the Ferrari’s and Max Verstappen beginning to close in.
This prompted Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe to issue team orders to Hamilton to pick up the pace, in which Hamilton replied, “ I am comfortable where I am.” His words unleashed a flurry of reports that he disobeyed team orders as if he was the only driver to do such a thing. In a statement after the race, Paddy Lowe, agreed that, “Hamilton had done nothing wrong, and it was within his right to drive as he wanted especially given that the team had declared beforehand that their drivers were completely free to race.”
If Mercedes were to sanction Hamilton, they may prove Paddy Lowe words “completely free to race” wrong, and they may lend credence to fan rumors that, “Mercedes was manipulating the championship since Australia to achieve the results in Abu Dhabi,” something Mercedes would never, embark upon.
When Mercedes talk about protecting the ‘Brand’ it is not Hamilton’s actions in Abu Dhabi that will hurt the brand. It will be the team orders and reaction of Mercedes to Hamilton trying to win a race that was not breaking the rules of the governing body.