Nico Rosberg Finishes the Season on a High in Abu Dhabi
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News November 29, 2015
Photo: Mercedes AMG Petronas
With another conventional strategy from the Mercedes team, Nico Rosberg drove to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, signing off his year with a trifecta. Teammate Lewis Hamilton tried to mix things up and set up what could have been a wheel to wheel fight at the end. At the second pit stop, Hamilton attempted an alternative strategy. Ultimately, however, he finished 8.2s behind his team-mate Rosberg.
Hamilton led for ten laps in the middle of the race as he attempted to switch to a one-stop strategy before being ordered by the team to pit for a more conventional, by-the-book two-stop strategy. This could have been taken as a sign the team really didn’t want to go against the grain or maybe they felt this change in strategy would possibly hand the victory over to the three time world champion. The top three finished as they started with Kimi Raikkonen in third.
Rosberg finishes the season 59 points behind his team-mate in the final standings, with six straight pole positions and three straight victories going into 2016 which might be something the Mercedes team was hoping to achieve to maintain a positive morale between both drivers.
“Yeah, for sure, ecstatic with the way it went, because really master-managed... controlled the pace through the race and managed my tyres and used them optimally and pushed all the way through to the end, so had good pace there with tyres that’s for sure and had a lot more laps on them than Lewis’s so very pleased with that, definitely,” said Rosberg.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel did a great job finding his way thru the field from 15th to finish fourth, making the most of his Ferrari's pace and utilizing a different strategy to finish behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen in third. Sergio Perez gets huge kudos for which was an awesome weekend for him, finishing fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India took sixth with Felipe Massa taking eighth for WIlliams, and Romain Grosjean finishing ninth in his last race for Lotus.
Nico Rosberg had a quick start off the line to a comfortable lead into the first corner ahead of Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Perez. At the back of the grid, McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso collided into Pastor Maldonado putting an end to the Lotus driver's race day and resulting in a drive-through penalty for Alonso.
Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes to pit each time, making it almost impossible for Hamilton to pass without an alternative strategy for himself or a mistake from Rosberg. Hamilton was allowed to pursue a different approach to his tyre management and appeared to be angling for a one-stop strategy by staying out beyond the normal window for a second stop.
Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel found his way thru the field from 15th to finish fourth. Photo: Scuderia Ferrari
Hamilton believed he could manage the tires to the end, but this was negated by the team failing to relay the information hamilton needed to make a decision. Ten laps after Rosberg made his second stop at the end, Hamilton was ordered to pit.
“Well, I just did what I was told pretty much, most of the time and then yeah, I tried as hard as I could in the first stint, I tried to keep a relatively decent gap to Nico, looking after my tires and then my right front... or both fronts went off quite early and Nico was able to... in the clean air, was able to look after them. In the second stint I was quicker and getting close and then... I could make the tires last longer, yeah, of course, but after that it was really down to the team, whether or not we went to the option or the other tyre. I’m not sure which one was better but the prime tyre was quite good. I’m not sure whether or not I could have taken it to the end but some part of me just wishes I’d just given it a go. But no, the engine modes were going up and down throughout the race, not really sure they were like that because they had lots of life left in my engine but I’ll ask when I get back to the debrief,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton later said he wished he could have tried the one-stop strategy which would have forced Rosberg to pass on track. Despite pushing hard, Hamilton was unable to once again close the gap on Rosberg who managed the teams strategy to perfection to take the win.