Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi: Nico Rosberg might be living in the fast lane but on Sunday, at the spectacularly lit Yas Marina Circuit, he showed that he is also one of the coolest heads on the planet.
For three relentless days, Lewis Hamilton kept piling on immense pressure on his Mercedes teammate, but he remained undeterred behind the wheel to seal his maiden Formula One World Championship, finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Hamilton, starting on pole, had to be content with winning the final Grand Prix with a time of 1:38.04sec, his 10th victory of the season, with another dominant performance while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completed the podium.
An elated Rosberg did donuts on the main straight and headed out to the applauding crowd saying: “Thank you so much guys, that’s a childhood dream come true.”
Then a perfect shot for the shutter buffs followed as arch rivals Hamilton-Rosberg were involved in a quick hug.
The tension was palpable — especially in the Mercedes team garage — and the finale immediately provided plenty of excitement with Red Bulls’ Max Verstappen spinning lower down the order and making contact with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg as pole sitter Hamilton led Rosberg into turn one.
Kimi Raikkonen jumped into the front of Ricciardo to steal the third spot following that drama and Kevin Magnussen was seen heading for the pits to fix a new front nose.
Lap 7 and the Mercedes called in Hamilton to the pit from the lead and Rosberg too followed on lap 10 but it was a slow one from the latter and he was now stuck behind Verstappen in third.
Rosberg then seemed to be a bit eager to get back into second and was warned by his Mercedes think-tank on radio: “They’re purposely making Verstappen slow, so you need to get past him. Don’t take any risks with Verstappen, you’re doing the right thing.”
Then Jenson Button’s swansong came to an end abruptly on lap 13 as he was forced to return to his garage following a suspension issue. He was immediately consoled by his mum Simone Lyons. Toro Rosso’s struggle with the car too continued — and Daniil Kvyat had to pull to the side of the track and park before taking a lone depressing cycle ride to the pits. His team partner Carlos Sainz also pulled over later with a gearbox issue.
Rosberg finally managed to overtake Verstappen on lap 20 on turn 8 to move into that crucial second and went on to set the fastest time on lap 22 and later set three consecutive fast laps.
Hamilton, who was enjoying the lone drive upfront, pitted for the last time on lap 28. With the Red Bulls out of the way, by lap 31, Rosberg was inching closer to Hamilton and all he needed to do was stay behind the leader to seal the title. Ferrari’s Vettel, struggling with his tyres, switched to super-softs and it immediately yielded dividends as he traded positions with his teammate Raikkonen. Vettel then blasted past Ricciardo along the second back straight to move into fifth on lap 46. Mercedes wanted Hamilton to push hard fearing being caught but his reply was blunt — “It is better you let us race.”
In no time, Vettel was on to third spot vrooming past Verstappen and closing in on Rosberg. Hamilton by now, well aware that he had lost the Championship, vented his frustration on the radio: “Right now, I’m losing the world championship so I don’t care if I lose this race.”
Vettel was just 1.6s off Rosberg, but he faded out of that challenge and the new champ was heard screaming from his car: “Yeh, World Champion” as fireworks erupted in the background.
“Definitely not the most enjoyable race I have ever had. With those guys coming up at the end, very glad it’s over and unbelievably ecstatic. I want to give this win to my wife and daughter. I’ll thank everyone else afterwards — unreal!” added a jubilant Rosberg after lifting the trophy.