The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX : Abu Dhabi : Rosberg is the Champion

03-12-2016

Story by Winston D’Arcy

 

There are World Champions and there are World Champions.

One lot take their triumphs with class and style.

The others display ignorance of what it entails to be recognised as being at the top of their world. They lack that elusive element called style.

Lewis Hamilton let himself down badly at this Grand Prix. He may well be one of the quickest drivers out there, and may well be quicker than his team mate Nico Rosberg, but there comes a time when everyone has to gracefully acknowledge that a World Championship is lost to someone who has performed better, or has had more good fortune, over an entire season.

To watch Hamilton drive the last laps of this Grand Prix some 9 seconds slower than qualifying in the hope of backing Rosberg into the pursuing Vettel, Ricciardo and Verstappen made everyone cringe at his desperation to win the Championship. It appears that Vettel also thought the better at interfering in the battle and settled for third so as to let Rosberg have his second place.

If Hamilton really wanted to make his point that he was quickest then he should have disappeared off into the distance and let the others sort themselves out and see where Rosberg ended up. And then be gracious in defeat. Instead, he mumbled some more about his mechanical failures.

I will always acknowledge his supreme speed in a racing car. But as a sportsman with style he disappeared for me that weekend.

Other than a heart-warming World Championship for Nico Rosberg the weekend ended as a disappointment for me and left a sour taste to reflect on until the next season starts.

The Mercs had the season to themselves, armed with two outstanding drivers and a fabulous engine package, and they left the others in the dust. Ferrari were a disappointment and were overtaken by the Red Bulls who, if you care to remember, complained bitterly about the lack of power from their Renault engines and even cancelled their contract with them. When, in the piranha jungle of F1, they were denied any other engine they had to go back to Renault, RB cap in hand, and be given back their engines on condition that they shut up about them being awful…

Suddenly, throughout the season, the RBs got better and better and overhauled the Ferraris. They were helped significantly by the huge emerging talent of Max Verstappen, who can probably command any salary from any F1 team he now choses. ‘Breath of fresh air’ is an overused concept, but it certainly applied to Max. He put the oldies to shame, culminating in that awesome display at Interlagos.

But anyway, I was asked to write about the Abu Dhabi race, not reflect upon F1 in general.

What is there to say? That the Mercs dominated qualifying as usual, with Hamilton edging out a small advantage throughout. There was huge press speculation about whether he would simply try to back Rosberg into the following pack, but he denied that would be his strategy so we believed him. How unsportsmanlike would that be?

Rosberg maintained his cool and dignity throughout the lead-up to the GP, focussing on protecting that 12-point lead. He needed to just let Hamilton win and cruise to a safe third place. How different it turned out.

As for the Fazzas, well, they were 4th (Kimi) and 5th (Seb) but almost a second behind the pole time. Again it was Raikkonen who out-qualified his far more highly rated team mate so things clearly aren’t right there. Vettel needs the closed season to rediscover his mojo and reflect upon what’s going on. The Ferrari squad cannot take any comfort from the way the season ended, with no championship challenge in sight. As we’ve often said before – time for an Anglo-Saxon period again?

The race was nail-biting to watch but only insofar as Hamilton had every intention of backing Rosberg into the rest of the field. He hung around after the start, driving slowly in the lead, and watched things develop. The Red Bulls were not far behind and nor were the Ferraris to start with. The various tyre-stops did not change the picture much, with Hamilton still driving as slowly as he could to slow Rosberg down. It was nonsense to watch.

By the last few laps it was getting embarrassing as well, with his pits telling Hamilton to speed up or else. He ignored their instructions and managed to trap Rosberg between his gearbox and the rapidly closing Vettel, with newer tyres, and also Mad Max, always an unpredictable threat. Somehow Rosberg managed to keep it together and crossed the line in second place to seal the championship.

I feel sure that Vettel could have shoved his way into second in those last couple of laps, but chose not to. After all, why allow Hamilton to join you as four-times World Champion?

Rosberg was visibly drained after the race, and it only slowly dawned on him that he had achieved the World Championship, some 34 years after his dad Keke did the same. Our wholehearted congratulations go to him to win this accolade when faced with a team mate who is probably the quicker in outright pace, but not always his own best friend. Hamilton left the circuit still gracelessly murmuring about his mechanical travails.

It’s a shame that this report is all about the two Merc drivers, because I would rather talk about our own Ferrari team. But, in all honesty, they have not had the season they wanted and simply did not feature the way they should have. What are they going to do about it for 2017?

The final word should perhaps go to a good mate of mine who watched the GP and then sent the following thought: “Maybe M-B are after the Yoof market and so tell Hamilton to behave as if he’s straight outa EastEnders. When he retires he will probably revert to a Hertfordshire accent, go out with a teacher from Reading, wash off the tattoos, do ads for M&S and write a boring weekly column in Autocar “

‘Nuff said for 2016. See you next year.