Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

Kimi Räikkönen & Sebastian Vettel

sunnuntai 27. marraskuuta 2016

Abu Dhabi GP: Nico Rosberg is 2016 world champion!

The sun started to set as the lights went out at Yas Marina Circuit. There was immense concentration by all drivers, as the season finale was at hand. Both Mercedes drivers got excellent starts; Hamilton maintained his lead with teammate Rosberg right at his tail. Kimi got a fantastic start as well, and the Iceman managed to overtake Red Bull´s Ricciardo, who had started to the race on the super soft Pirellis. Kimi was now 3rd in the race. Verstappen on the other hand, had contact with Force India´s Hulkenberg right after the start; the Dutchman spun at Turn 1! Luckily he was able to continue, but he had to start racing all over again from the very back of the pack. Due to Verstappen´s incident Sebastian was now fifth, right at Ricciardo´s tail.

The pit stop roulette started already on lap 7, as both Hamilton and Kimi pitted -both for a fresh set of yellow-marked soft tyres. On the following lap their teammates Rosberg and Sebastian pitted -for a similar tyre choice. Red Bull´s Ricciardo pitted on lap 10, also opting for the soft Pirellis. Teammate Verstappen instead stayed out having already made his way impressively through the field. Hamilton had re-joined the track ahead of the Flying Dutchman, but both Rosberg and Kimi re-joined the track behind the Red Bull pilot. Rosberg was stuck behind Verstappen, but against all odds, teammate Hamilton didn´t pull away from his rivals. It really caught my eye, how slowly Hamilton was driving. It seemed as if the Briton was trying to give his rivals a better chance to attack Nico! Which was sneaky tactics indeed.

McLaren´s Button -who was driving his career-ending race- got a front suspension failure on lap 13, which forced the Briton to retire from the race. Unfortunately it wasn´t the kind of a closure that Button would have wanted to have for his long and successful F1 career. On lap 20 Rosberg was told on the team radio, that it was critical to get past Verstappen. Right after that message Rosberg attacked on the super fast Dutchman. Verstappen managed to defend his position in terms of Nico´s first move, but Nico was determined to take P2 from the Red Bull teenager. Their wheels almost touched, and it must have been a hair-raising moment for Nico, who had the most to lose in this race! After the second move Rosberg managed to get past Verstappen.

Verstappen pitted not until on lap 22 -for soft rubber as well. It seemed likely, that he´d go till the end on that set of tyres. He re-joined the track in P8. Teammate Ricciardo drove into the pits for the second time on lap 25, opting for another set of soft tyres. This made Ferrari react; they called Kimi in. However, on the new set of soft tyres, Kimi dropped down behind both Red Bulls when re-joining the track! It definitely wasn´t the perfect pit stop strategy for the Iceman! Teammate Sebastian instead stayed out and kept driving competitive lap times. Hamilton pitted on lap 29 and teammate Rosberg on the following lap -both for another set of soft Pirellis. Sebastian was now leading the race, but he had one more pit stop awaiting...

It was refreshing to see a different pit stop strategy from Sebastian. He came in not until on lap 38, and he opted for a fresh set of red-marked super soft tyres. I was confident that Sebastian was going to fly on his fresh tyres! He re-joined the track in P6, behind teammate Kimi. Sebastian was significantly faster than all his rivals, and he started his chase towards podium. In no time Sebastian had chased down his teammate, who didn´t make an effort to defend his position. Ricciardo was only some 4 seconds ahead and race leader Hamilton only 10 seconds away. Sebastian was absolutely determined to aim as high as he could.

With 10 laps to go, Hamilton was told on the team radio to drive faster. The team was worried, that Sebastian might be a real threat to the Briton. But Hamilton kept his teammate right at his tail -driving on a defensive mode- to give Verstappen and Vettel a better chance to attack Nico. Sebastian had already got within DRS distance from Ricciardo. The German made an overtaking move on his ex teammate, which turned out successful due to his much fresher tyres.

With five laps to go, the top four was within 2,7 seconds! The battle for championship truly intensified during those closing laps. Sebastian smelled Verstappen´s blood and attacked the Dutchman, who is known as a very challenging driver to overtake. And Sebastian made it past Verstappen, who was the only top driver on a one-stop strategy. The German was now third in the race but seemed passionate to get past Rosberg as well.

Although Hamilton slowed down even more on the final lap, he couldn´t prevent Rosberg from finishing the runner-up, which meant that Nico was 2016 world champion! To be honest, it was refreshing to see a new world champion. And I was very delighted to see Sebastian on the podium as well. Verstappen finished 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Kimi 6th, Hulkenberg 7th, Perez 8th, Massa 9th and Alonso 10th. Kimi had a strong first stint, but somehow Ferrari seemed to lack pace on the hardest tyre compound. I can´t help thinking, what Kimi would have been capable of, had he had a similar pit stop strategy to his teammate...

I´m very happy that Hamilton won the race; so he was able to dedicate the victory for his deceased friend Dr Aki Hintsa, who passed away last week. On the other hand I´m happy for Nico, who finally won his first world title. Nico has been one of the underrated drivers on the paddock so far, but I´m sure it will change now. It´s impressive that Nico is already a second-generation world champion, as his father Keke Rosberg was crowned world champion in 1982.

Knowing that the Formula 1 season is now officially over, I feel so empty. What am I going to do during this long off-season? I´m going to miss GP weekends so much! And I´m going to miss writing my blog! So if there´s any F1 related topic you want me to write about, please let me know! ;) I´m already looking forward to the 2017 F1 season!

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