Lewis Hamilton took victory in Abu Dhabi but second place for Nico Rosberg was enough to clinch his maiden World Drivers’ Championship.
The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team racers finished first and second for the eighth time in 2016, with Hamilton leading almost from start to finish, but the Briton did everything he could to deny his team-mate the title.
Hamilton attempted to back Rosberg into the chasing pack at the Yas Marina Circuit in the knowledge that should the German finish off the podium, he would become World Champion, but despite the top four being covered by just 1.685 seconds at the chequered flag, Rosberg did not allow either Sebastian Vettel or Max Verstappen to get ahead of him, and ended five points ahead in the standings.
Rosberg made a great move to pass the long-running Verstappen on lap twenty to reclaim second position after dropping behind the Red Bull Racing driver when he made his first pit stop, a move that would be crucial to stay ahead of both Red Bull drivers when he made his second pit stop.
Verstappen had found himself at the back of the field on the opening lap when he spun on the exit of turn one after a brush with Nico Hülkenberg, but made a one-stop strategy work, running long on his Supersoft tyre before switching to the Soft until the end.
Unfortunately for Verstappen, he would lose third place with four laps to go to Vettel, who took an alternative strategy of his own, making the switch from the Ultrasoft tyre to the Soft early before a late switch to the Supersoft until the chequered flag that saw him pass his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen for his first podium finish since the Italian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo was unable to maintain the pace of his team-mate Verstappen and trailed home in fifth, while Raikkonen ended a distant sixth in the second Ferrari despite having run third in the early laps after jumping Ricciardo into the first turn.
Hülkenberg survived the first lap clash with Verstappen to secure seventh for the Sahara Force India F1 Team ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, with the result confirming the team in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship at the expense of the Williams Martini Racing team, with the gap ultimately ending up at 35 points.
Felipe Massa did finish inside the top ten for Williams in his final Grand Prix before retirement, with the popular Brazilian finishing on the tail of Perez ahead of him but just ahead of Fernando Alonso, who concluded the season with tenth place for the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team.
Romain Grosjean finished eleventh for the Haas F1 Team but was never truly in contention for a points finish, while team-mate Esteban Gutierrez brought an end to his Haas career in twelfth, 18.336 seconds down on Grosjean.
The Manor Racing MRT team ended the year bottom of the Constructors’ Championship standings, but both Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein can hold their heads held high after finishing thirteenth and fourteenth on Sunday, although it could have been a catastrophe after the duo banged wheels at turn eleven with just three laps remaining.
The Frenchman managed to take the position in his final race with the outfit before he departs for the next step of his career when he joins Force India in 2017, while Wehrlein must wait to see where he will be racing next season.
Marcus Ericsson was the leading of the Sauber F1 Team drivers at the chequered flag but the Swede could do no better than fifteenth despite being the last driver in the field to make his first and only stop with just sixteen laps remaining, while team-mate Felipe Nasr ran a two stop strategy to finish behind Ericsson in sixteenth.
Jolyon Palmer was the final finisher for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team in seventeenth, with the Briton enduring a tough afternoon that saw him run as high as eleventh before requiring a third stop when he collided with Carlos Sainz Jr.
The duo were allowing the front runners to lap them when Palmer misjudged his braking into turn seventeen, which meant he struck the back of the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver and damaged his own front wing, with the clash earning him a five second time penalty on top of everything else.
Unfortunately for Sainz, his race was over not long after when he suffered gearbox gremlins, following his team-mate Daniil Kvyat into retirement, with the Russian having pulled off the circuit on lap sixteen on the run down to turn eleven, also with gearbox issues, to end his frustrating Abu Dhabi weekend.
Kvyat is likely to be relieved that his 2016 season is over so he can relax and reset before returning to the Faenza-based team in 2017.
Jenson Button’s final Grand Prix came to an early end when a suspension failed on the front right wheel of his McLaren on lap thirteen, with the Briton waving to the crowd and hugging his family and team as he said goodbye. The issue with his suspension occurred when he took an aggressive line across the kerbs at turn nine.
Valtteri Bottas was also an early retirement when he pulled into the garage after complaining about the rear dampers on his Williams, and despite the team attempting to fix the issue of an abnormally bouncing car, the decision was made to retire the car.
Kevin Magnussen’s final race for the Renault team was over after just five laps, with the Dane making a first lap pit stop for a new front wing after contact, before being called into the pits to retire by his team with damage to his suspension.
But the championship belongs to Nico Rosberg, who follows in the footsteps of his father Keke in winning the World Championship. He celebrated with donuts on the main straight before jumping into the arms of his mechanics in parc ferme. No one is undeserving of the World Championship, and with nine wins in 2016, Rosberg can now list himself alongside some of the greats of Formula 1.
Yas Marina Circuit Race Result
|4||33||Max Verstappen||NED||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||+1.685||12|
|5||3||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull-Tag Heuer||+5.315||10|
|7||27||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India-Mercedes||+50.114||6|
|8||11||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India-Mercedes||+58.776||4|
|13||31||Esteban Ocon||FRA||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|14||94||Pascal Wehrlein||GER||Manor-Mercedes||+1 Lap|
|15||9||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|16||12||Felipe Nasr||BRZ||Sauber-Ferrari||+1 Lap|
|17||30||Jolyon Palmer||GBR||Renault||+1 Lap|
|RET||55||Carlos Sainz Jr||ESP||Toro Rosso-Renault||Retired|
|RET||26||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Toro Rosso-Renault||Retired|