Nico Rosberg did all he needed to do to become the the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion by finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, behind his title rival and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in a tense season finale at Yas Marina Circuit.
It was no walk in the park for Rosberg as he was made to toil hard for the coveted accolade and endured a thrilling final half dozen laps as Hamilton backed him into the clutches of Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen who were in pursuit.
From the start Rosberg managed to get a good start and was tucked under Hamilton’s wing as the pair took control of the race in the early stages. The stalemate carried on until just before mid-race, after the leaders had pitted Hamilton emerged ahead of Verstappen who had recovered from a first turn spin, but Roberg was stuck behind the Red Bull driver.
He chased Verstappen doggedly and was told to get past him. When he attacked, the Dutch teenager was not easy game and made the Mercedes driver work hard for the position. The pair went wheel to wheel in breathtaking fashion, but Rosberg got by and powered into the distance.
With about a dozen laps to go it was a stalemate between Hamilton and Rosberg, upon which the reigning world champion played his final card which was to back the world champion elect into the hard pursuing pair of Vettel and Verstappen.
By controlling the pace Hamilton managed to slow Rosberg enough for Vettel to get really close. Mercedes technical chief came on the radio urging Hamilton to speed up to win the race. He refused.
Vettel made a couple of lunges n a track that is almost impossible to overtake, but Rosberg kept his nerve and held firm top cross the line tucked under Hamilton’s rear wing, second place was more than enough for him to clinch his first Formula 1 World Championship title.
Rosberg told Sky Sport: “An unbelievable feeling because the race was so horribly intense. When I was told it was critical to get by, wow, and to take on Max of all people.”
“It is impossible to explain the intensity. A really horrible feeling out there. This is the world championship we were talking about, with those two behind.”
“Lewis was trying to back me into everyone else. He did it really, really well and I was stuck. Vettel coming up behind with all the grip was horrendous.”
The anguish turned to rampant joy and celebration as he crossed the finish line less than half a second behind Hamilton, with the red Ferrari filling his mirrors, to hang on to second place and do exactly what was required to be the sport’s new World Champion.
Keke Rosberg, his father and 1982 Formula 1 World Champion, was not present at the track but was in Abu Dhabi watching on TV and will for sure be celebrating with his son on the night.
“I haven’t seen my dad yet, I hope he is OK,” added Rosberg.
Rosberg said on the podium: “Unreal. I am very, very proud. I have done the same feat as my dad achieved. He will be here in half an hour and I am so excited to see him.”
“I also want to say congrats to Lewis, you did a great season, a great competitor always and it’s always tough to beat you. Mercedes, put the music on – I’m coming down in a second,” added the 2016 F1 World Champion.
His wife Vivian endured the stress from the Mercedes pit garage and could not watch the final lap, before bursting into celebration as her husband did the business.
She told reporters, “It’s just unbelievable – he’s dreamt of this since he was a little boy. He’s worked so hard and he deserves this. Around 15 of his friends are here and he doesn’t know – we’re going to have a big, surprise party.”
“Unbelievable, unbelievable. A moment like this is filled with emotions in general. I didn’t enjoy those last few laps!” added the wife of F1’s 33rd World Champion.
2016 Formula 1 World Championship Points Standings
|3||AUS||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||256|
|5||NED||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||204|
|7||MEX||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||101|
|9||GER||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||72|
|12||ESP||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||46|
|14||RUS||TORO ROSSO FERRARI||25|