The 2016 Formula 1 season saw no let-up in the domination imposed by the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, who cruised to victory for the third year running, 297 points clear of second placed Red Bull Racing, with a silver arrows driver taking victory at nineteen of the twenty-one races contested.
Nico Rosberg was crowned 2016 drivers champion, despite only winning nine races to team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s ten, whilst Daniel Ricciardo finished best of the race by taking victory in Malaysia, but also being the most consistent podium finisher across the year.
Max Verstappen, who started the season with Scuderia Toro Rosso, but from round five onwards had been promoted to the Red Bull senior team, was the only other driver to take victory in 2016, but it was to be a significant one. The Dutchman took an unlikely win at the Spanish Grand Prix, in just his first race behind the wheel of the RB12, and also become the youngest ever driver to win a F1 race in the history of the sport, confirming Helmut Marko’s belief in the then 18-year-old.
There were visits to the podium for nine different drivers; Hamilton and Rosberg, Ricciardo and Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat whilst still driving for Red Bull, Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez – who saw the final step of the podium twice in Monaco and Baku, and Williams Martini Racing driver Valtteri Bottas in Canada.
In total twenty-four drivers contested the twenty-one-race season for the eleven teams, twenty of which secured points. With every team scoring at least one point for the first time since 2009.
There were also two new teams to the grid in 2016, the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team, who had competed in F1 previously as both a constructor and engine supplier, and the Haas F1 Team, who were making their debut in the sport, and became the first all American F1 team in three decades.
Australian Grand Prix
Having finished the 2015 Formula 1 season strongly by winning the final three races of the year, Rosberg carried on from where he left off in 2016, by taking his and Mercedes first victory of their 2016 campaign at round 1 in Australia.
The German led home team-mate Hamilton for the first of eight one-two finishes throughout the year, after Hamilton, who had looked untouchable through practice and qualifying, was caught out by the new rules restricting the use of driver aids at the start of a race, and got a poor getaway. It was an issue that was to plague the Brit at further grand prix across the season.
Vettel secured the final podium spot for Ferrari, whilst Ricciardo just missed out on climbing the steps on home soil.
Romain Grosjean finished sixth for Haas in their first ever outing in F1, a feat not achieved since Toyota did the same in 2002.
The first round of the 2016 season will most likely be remembered for a terrifying accident that involved drivers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez however. Trying to pass the Mexican on the run down to Turn 3, Alonso’s front right wheel tagged the right rear of the Haas F1 Team driver, and he was launched into a barrel roll, coming to rest upside down in the barriers.
The Spaniard miraculously escaped un-injured, but it was a scary moment for everyone.
Bahrain Grand Prix
Rosberg continued on his good run, to win in Bahrain ahead of Raikkonen in the Ferrari, who at this early stage of the season looked to have the edge on Red Bull, with Hamilton completing the podium.
Both Mercedes drivers were once again plagued by the dreaded start problems, with Hamilton coming off worst of the two. Luckily for them however, Raikkonen, who had qualified in third, had his own problems getting away from the line, and so Rosberg led from Hamilton into the first corner.
Bottas, seeing a gap reacted late to the opportunity presented to him, by which point the move was no longer on. The FW38 came crashing into the side of the W07 nose first, knocking Hamilton sideways briefly. The Finn sustained front and rear wing damage, whilst the Brit had suffered heavy floor damage, as well as losing part of his front wing end plate, those behind also came a cropper, unable to react to the situation in time. The Brit was relegated down to ninth after the incident, but completed a strong recovery drive to finish on the podium in the end, due to losing around a second a lap to his team-mate because of his damaged car.
Rookie Stoffel Vandoorne, who was standing in for the injured Alonso, scored the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team’s first point of the season by securing tenth place for the Woking based squad on his debut.
Haas driver Grosjean had another good race in only the American team’s second outing, at a time when the Frenchman was still happy with his car set-up, taking the chequered flag in a fabulous fifth place after opting for an aggressive tyre strategy.
Chinese Grand Prix
It was another brilliant victory for Rosberg in Beijing, but this time at the hands of cruel misfortune for team-mate Hamilton.
The Brit was already set to start from no higher than sixth in Sunday’s race after sustaining damage to his gearbox, which meant a change would have to be made before the race and a five place grid penalty would be taken.
To add insult to injury however, a problem with the MGU-H during qualifying, meant the Brit was unable to set a time and never made it out of Q3, and a resulting change of PU relegated him to the back of the grid for the start on race day.
The Chinese Grand Prix was a drama packed affair from start to finish. Ferrari drivers Vettel and Raikkonen collided at the first corner, seeing them both sustain front wing damage and have to pit for replacements, an incident the German blamed on the quickly advancing Kvyat, who he described as “coming at me like a torpedo”, and was to be the first of a number of fracas with Vettel that led to the Russians demotion at Red Bull.
The German made a fantastic recovery in the second half of the race, to take second place despite being down in fifteenth position in the early stages, albeit forty seconds down the road from victor Rosberg, whilst Kvyat came home third – making for an interesting pre-podium discussion between the pair.
Rosberg himself had not got off to the best of starts, and was beaten off the line by Ricciardo, but bad luck was also to rain on the Australian’s parade, when a tyre blow out on the second lap, put an end to any challenge he was going to bring to Rosberg’s campaign, who now had all of his closest rivals taken out of the equation, allowing him to cruise towards his third win of the season.
Hamilton meanwhile had done his best to stay out of trouble from the back of the grid, but was tagged by Sauber F1 Team driver Felipe Nasr as the Brazilian tried to avoid the upcoming Ferrari mess, which saw the Brit lose his front wing, and need to make an early pit stop.
A safety car to clear up the debris caused by Ricciardo’s puncture was deployed, and Hamilton pitted again, in a strategy that saw the 31-year-old pit three times in the first six laps, in order to get all necessary tyre compounds out of the way. By the time the safety car was brought in, Hamilton was right on the back of the pack.
There was a good effort to make a recovery drive from the Brit, but floor damage to the W07 sustained during the first lap incident, was too much of a handicap for the three-time world champion, and despite making light work of half of the field, seventh was the best Hamilton could achieve.
Russian Grand Prix
It was win number four, and his seventh in succession for Rosberg in Russia, a race the German claimed in dominating style.
Another engine failure in qualifying for Hamilton saw the Brit have to start from tenth on the grid on race day, but a brilliant drive from the 31-year-old saw him make a strong recovery to take second place, ahead of the Ferrari of Raikkonen.
Hamilton made quick work of climbing back up the order, dispatching both Raikkonen and Bottas, before chasing down Rosberg up ahead. The lead was coming down with every lap, until Hamilton was informed over team radio that the engine had a water pressure issue and he would have to back off and make do with another second place, once again behind his team-mate.
The story of the race however was the incident between Vettel and Kvyat, who already had history from the previous grand prix, when the pair connected twice in one lap, with the Russian felt to hold the blame, on this occasion at least.
Kvyat careered into the back on of the Ferrari at the second corner, when the German slowed down without any real warning, and then the luckless Russian hit Vettel again at the next corner, sending the German into a spin and into the barriers, ending his race.
Vettel was furious and was immediately spotted at the Red Bull pit wall in discussion with Team Principal Christian Horner, and Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko. In the next few weeks, the Milton Keynes based squad announced they would be promoting Verstappen into the first team seat, with the Russian being placed back at sister squad, Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Further down the order, Alonso put in what was to be one of many fantastic starts across the season, rising from fourteenth to seventh in the first lap, and seeing the Spaniard score one of McLaren Honda’s best results of the year, a fine sixth place.
Spanish Grand Prix
Round five of the 2016 Formula 1 championship saw the Mercedes pair hit trouble, when they took each other out at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix, but the race also bore witness to the youngest ever winner of a F1 race.
Having finally completed a successful qualifying session, after the disappointment of the last two race weekends, Hamilton was back on top having secured pole position ahead of team-mate Rosberg. All that hard work was to become undone however in the very first lap of the race.
Both silver arrows drivers got adequate starts, but the German’s was slightly better and he led the Brit off the line. They remained in that formation until the approach to Turn 4, when the pair collided, sending them both into the gravel and sustaining race ending damage for both drivers.
Hamilton had seen a gap up the inside on the outside of Turn 3, but as the Brit made his move the space rapidly vanished as Rosberg defended his position. The Brit got two wheels on the grass, which was enough for him to lose grip, sending him into a spin and collecting Rosberg in the process. It was deemed a racing incident by stewards, but certainly had more far reaching consequences for Mercedes bosses.
With the silver arrows out of the picture, that left a rare chance at victory for Red Bull and Ferrari, and the Milton Keynes based squad’s baby-faced debutant grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Being on the right strategy won the day, with all four drivers choosing differing options to see them to the end of the race. The Dutchman, now known for being able to expertly manage his tyres, completed a longer middle stint which meant he was able to switch to a two stop, trumping the other three drivers who all completed three.
Team-mate Ricciardo sustained a late puncture which saw him out of the running, but Verstappen did well to hold off the faster Raikkonen, who was also on fresher rubber, for the majority of the final stint of the race to take the historic victory ahead of the Finn.
Vettel finished five and a half seconds back in third place.
Monaco Grand Prix
The tables finally turned for Hamilton in Monaco, when the Brit outclassed team-mate Rosberg in the wet, to take victory in Monte-Carlo, and end his eight race win drought in Formula 1.
It was by no means an easy victory for the Brit, who had to hold off the strong advances from Ricciardo at the end, who, had it not been for a glaring error from his pit crew when they did not have the right tyres ready for the Australian as he came into the pit for slicks on lap 31, would likely have taken the win, but had to settle for second place instead.
After the race, Red Bull management put it down to a communication error, which they were deeply sorry for. Ricciardo unsurprisingly was furious, having been denied his first F1 victory since Belgium back in 2014, and did not want to speak to any of his fellow team members in the immediate aftermath.
Strong strategy was once again key in Monaco, but the most important move of the race was probably when Mercedes asked the much slower Rosberg to move over and let Hamilton through, which he dutifully obliged without question. Doing so allowed the Brit a chance at catching Ricciardo who had sped off into the distance at the time, the Australian having qualified on pole the day before.
Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton out on the wet tyres until it was dry enough to switch to slicks, a much longer stint than many others in the field, including Ricciardo, and their strategy worked to perfection…with a little help from their calamitous friends at Red Bull!
It was a fantastic effort all race from Force India driver Perez, who took the final podium place. The Mexican held off the Ferrari of Vettel for the majority of the grand prix, with an increasingly frustrated German unable to permeate the 26-year-old’s resolve.
McLaren also enjoyed one of their best races of the season, when they picked up double points for drivers Alonso and Jenson Button, with the Spaniard finishing in fifth and the Brit securing ninth place.
Canadian Grand Prix
The Canadian Grand Prix looked like it could be Ferrari’s first win of the season, but superior strategy from leaders Mercedes, foiled the Italian team’s plans, and it was Hamilton that completed the victory.
Having got off to a flyer from the second row, Vettel launched himself ahead of both Mercedes off the line and was straight into a lead by Turn 1. Hamilton and Rosberg meanwhile battled for second place, mindful of their coming together last month, as they took the corner side by side.
There was a light touching of chassis’ as Rosberg got pushed out onto the grass, and Mercedes hearts were in their mouths, allowing Hamilton to breakaway. The German felt the Brit’s move had been somewhat aggressive, but the stewards did not see the incident the same way.
Vettel tried his best to carve out a lead to Hamilton, but to no avail, as the Brit was able to keep the gap to just over a second behind the German. Once again however, it was poor strategy that was to ruin Ferrari’s day.
When a safety car was deployed to allow the pick-up of the stricken McLaren of Button on lap 10, the Maranello based squad chose to pit both of their drivers, meaning Vettel would now have to pass Hamilton, who had stayed out, in order to win the race.
The Brit eventually pitted on lap 24, for his one and only stop of the race, allowing him to control the race safe in the knowledge that Vettel would have to pit again.
Rosberg meanwhile could only manage fifth place, having slipped down the order to ninth, after the first lap battle with his team-mate. The German was able to pass Ricciardo and Raikkonen, but Verstappen proved too much for Rosberg in the final laps of the race, and in his attempt to pass the Dutchman Rosberg span the W07, but was luckily able to recover without losing a place.
Bottas completed the podium in what was a surprisingly strong race for Williams Martini Racing, who had not figured in as many top positions as they would have liked so far this year.
European Grand Prix
The F1 circus arrived in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, for the first time in the history of F1 as the European Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2016.
Having not even finished on the podium for three races straight, Rosberg came to the fore once more, with victory at the inaugural F1 race held in Baku. The win was partly down to a costly mistake from Hamilton in qualifying, and partly down to a rogue engine setting encountered by the Brit during the race.
During qualifying Hamilton was pushing hard on his first flying lap in the final moments of Q3. The triple world champion was three tenths up on his team-mate, but a lapse in concentration perhaps, or just a case of pushing harder than he needed to, saw the 31-year-old lock up before crashing the W07 into the barrier.
That error meant Hamilton would be starting the race from tenth place, making life somewhat easier for his team-mate. It was a rare off day for the Brit in qualifying, which he would have to make up for in the race.
By lap 11 Hamilton had made his way up to fourth place, but try as he might the Brit could not get by the Force India of Perez. The Mexican had looked strong all weekend, and had it not been for a crash at the end of FP3, could even have challenged for pole position.
Damaged tyres from qualifying did not help matters, and so Mercedes attempted to get ahead through strategy. Force India were smart to their game however, and when Hamilton pitted, they sent Perez in the lap after.
Midway through the race, Hamilton had a final stab at overtaking Perez, but was unable to make anything stick, before he began to drop back. It became apparent through team radio messages that Hamilton had a problem with his engine settings, but due to the communication restrictions in place, the team were unable to help him get out of the incorrect setting, leaving the Brit to work it out for himself.
The problem left Hamilton frustrated for some time before finally with just ten laps remaining he found the answer. Rosberg also encountered the same issue during the race, but having switched onto it himself, the German immediately knew how to rectify it. Hamilton began the race with the issue, so had no way of knowing what setting was at fault.
The three-time world champion began to close in on Perez at one stage, but could do no better than cross the line in fifth place.
Vettel took an easy second place, but was sixteen seconds behind Rosberg, with no way of ever matching the pace of the W07, whilst Perez took his second podium of the year, and another third place.
Austrian Grand Prix
Hamilton fought back in style from his troubles in Baku, to take victory in Austria, but once again there was to be controversy for the head honchos at Mercedes.
The Brit dominated proceedings in qualifying, putting in a blistering lap to outpace Rosberg by more than half a second, and a gearbox change penalty for the German demoting him to sixth on the grid, filled Hamilton with confidence that the win was on.
The 31-year-old got off to a good start, leading comfortably, whilst Rosberg fought his way up the order to third place. An early pit-stop for the German on lap ten, moving him onto the soft tyre, proved a masterstroke however, and very nearly paid off too. Whilst Hamilton stayed out on his worn ultra-softs up front, Rosberg was able to bring down the gap as his team-mate managed his tyres, whilst at the same time staying clear of second placed Raikkonen.
With the gap to the German at twenty-one seconds, the Brit made his way into the pits on lap 21, enough of a gap to see him retain his lead, that was until an issue with Hamilton’s left rear wheel delayed his return to track, seeing him exit the pit lane behind Rosberg.
A safety car was deployed on lap 27, when Vettel had a high speed tyre blow out coming down the pit straight, closing the field up once again. The German had been leading the race at the time, and this was just another in a long line of wasted chances for Ferrari in 2016.
On lap 54, Hamilton came in for his second pit stop to switch to a used set of the soft rubber, whilst one lap later Rosberg was also brought in, but onto a new set of super-soft tyres. This strategy was questioned by the Brit, but he was calmly told over team radio that he was on the best available tyre.
From here on in, it would be a close race to the end for the two team-mates. And that is how it played out, until the final lap of the grand prix.
Heading into Turn 2, Hamilton took the outside line and was alongside his team-mate, but Rosberg kept him out wide causing the German to delay his turn in, and subsequently the pair collided as the Brit tried to make the corner.
Hamilton was pushed off track but remained ahead, whilst Rosberg took the brunt of the impact, damaging his front wing, which went underneath the W07 and sent sparks flying across the track. As it was the final lap, the German did not retreat to the pits, but he did lose out on places to Verstappen and Raikkonen, as well as receiving a time penalty after the race for driving with a damaged car, though this had no effect on his final position of fourth place.
Mercedes tried to play the incident down, claiming that Rosberg had a brake-by-wire failure, affecting the rear axle, and were assigning no blame either way, but things were definitely becoming difficult in the current world champions camp.
Button drove a strong race for McLaren, to finish in sixth place, having started from third on the grid, following a perfectly timed lap in the wet to dry qualifying session. Despite the power deficit to many of his competitors, Button was able to hold his own at the Spielberg track, only losing three places, to take his best result of the season so far.
Manor Racing MRT scored their first point of the season when driver Pascal Wehrlein came home in a fantastic tenth place for the Banbury based team, a result they could not have been expecting in their wildest dreams.
British Grand Prix
A dominant victory for Hamilton at the British Grand Prix, his fourth on home soil at the Silverstone track, saw him close to within just one point of team-mate Rosberg, a feat that had seemed almost impossible just a few rounds ago.
The Brit led every lap from the start, which began behind a safety car due to the wet conditions, and took the win in dominating fashion, in what was a smooth and seamless race for the current world champion. Rosberg meanwhile had to battle hard for his podium spot, after coming under pressure from Red Bull’s Verstappen, who made things extremely difficult for the German.
Once the safety car had pulled into the pits on lap 5, Hamilton immediately pulled out a lead on Rosberg, who was unable to shake off the advancing Dutchman following the first round of pit stops. By lap fifteen Verstappen had caught the German, and a shrewd move around the outside at Beckett’s saw the 18-year-old jump ahead of the German, in one sublime manoeuvre.
He remained ahead after pit stops for the dry weather tyres, but Rosberg was able to get himself back on a par with the Dutchman and re-take second place on lap 38. With five laps to go however, Rosberg hit problems, with an issue that required a system reset to allow him to avoid seventh gear. With the radio communication rules in full swing, the engineers should not have given the German any advice on how to rectify the situation, but with Rosberg becoming increasingly agitated, they did.
The stewards deemed that Mercedes had broken protocol to help the German and he was handed a ten second time penalty, demoting him to third place.
Hungarian Grand Prix
A third win in succession at the Hungaroring, saw Hamilton take the lead in the drivers’ championship by six points, reversing what was at one point a forty-three-point deficit, to undo the damage that a number of early season technical failures had caused. Rosberg had qualified on pole, but on race day, Hamilton swept passed the German off the line and never looked back.
Ricciardo was also able to catapult ahead of the German, but by Turn 2 Rosberg had taken second place back and slotted in behind Hamilton. Positions stayed the same after the first round of pit stops, with the Red Bull dropping back slightly, and likewise Hamilton eased off the pace.
He was asked to go faster, when Ricciardo came back into contention, which the Brit did after being warned that he would forfeit first pit stop rights if he did not comply. It was clear then that Mercedes were on another level to the Red Bull, as the pair were easily able to match and sometimes better the lap times of the Australian, despite being on much older tyres, Ricciardo having already made his final stop.
Hamilton cruised to his fifth win of the year, with Rosberg and Ricciardo completing the podium spots. There was controversy for F1’s brightest star Verstappen though, as the Dutchman’s defending came under scrutiny, with Raikkonen condemning his driving as not correct.
As the pair battled for fifth place on the run in to Turn 2, the Finn lost part of his front wing as he touched the rear of the Red Bull, when Verstappen aggressively defended his position. The Dutchman appeared to make more than one move in the braking zone, however stewards chose not to even investigate the incident, never mind penalise the youngster, setting a precedent for any incidents further down the line.
German Grand Prix
It was four wins on the bounce for Hamilton as he cruised to victory at the German Grand Prix, taking his lead in the title battle to nineteen points and a nice, healthy gap, ahead of the summer break.
It was the perfect day for the Brit in the end, after Rosberg had taken pole position on Saturday, the 31-year-old got one of his best starts of the season to launch himself into first place after the German got bogged down off the line.
Rosberg was passed by both Red Bull drivers and fourth place was where he remained at the end of the race. Despite the pace advantage of the W07, the German was unable to find a way by Ricciardo or Verstappen until the second round of pit stops when he was able to jump ahead of the Australian.Rosberg came out right behind Verstappen and attempted to pass him with a late move up the inside at Turn 6, but the Dutchman was wise to that game, and moved right to defend his position.
The Mercedes driver subsequently went straight on at the corner, coming out ahead, which Verstappen immediately got onto his team radio about, and Rosberg was hit with a five second stop go penalty for forcing the 18-year-old off track.
The penalty ruined any chance of the German finishing on the podium, which saw him drop back down to fourth once taken at his final stop of the race. That elevated Ricciardo back onto the podium, just behind his team-mate.
Belgian Grand Prix
It was Rosberg that took the win in the first race back after the summer break, but he was helped by the fact that team-mate Hamilton was hit with a raft of penalties for using the sixth of a number of engine components, as a result of his PU failures earlier in the season.
The Brit started the grand prix from the back row of the grid, alongside Alonso, who had also incurred the same fate. The pair both made fantastic starts, and had climbed up to eleventh and thirteenth by the start of the second lap, thanks to a collision between the two Ferrari’s and the Red Bull of Verstappen, which helped them rise through the pack.
The two back row chums had opted to start the race on the medium tyre, seeing them complete a much longer first stint, and as other drivers peeled into the pits, they found themselves in fourth and fifth place by lap 8.
At that point Renault driver Kevin Magnussen was involved in a huge crash, at speed coming through the final part of Eau Rouge. The Dane lost control of the RS16, spinning the Renault before crashing into the barriers on the outside of the track. The driver’s cockpit head protection scarily flying from the machine at impact. The race was red flagged due to the damage sustained to the barriers at one of the fastest parts of the track, to allow time for them to be repaired.
Magnussen limped away from the wreckage, but was later taken to hospital after Medical Centre checks revealed he had injured his ankle, but the Dane later took to social media to confirm he was sore but would be fine to compete in the upcoming Italian Grand Prix.
When the race got back underway, everyone now on fresh tyres, it looked like Hamilton would have a chance to get more than he had ever hoped for out of this grand prix. But try as he may, he found it extremely tricky to get by the Mercedes powered Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, causing him to lose time for ten laps before he finally found a way through.
Mercedes decided to bring the Brit in for a pit stop to resolve the situation, in the hope that he could also catch Ricciardo. Hamilton closed up to the back of the Australian, but was unable to pass him, before making his final stop on lap 32.
The Brit came back out between Hulkenberg and Perez, leaving him with just that bit too much to do to get himself back on terms with Ricciardo, who came home in second. It was an excellent salvage job from Hamilton however, rising from twenty-first to third was good damage limitation in the points stake. Alonso meanwhile managed to hold on to seventh place, a valiant effort considering the lack of power coming from the Honda engine.
Verstappen and Raikkonen were once again at war when the Finn attempted to pass the Dutchman on the run down to Les Combes. With DRS in play for the 2007 world champion, he was able to get ahead of the Red Bull round the outside, but Verstappen broke late forcing the Ferrari driver off track and across the run-off. Raikkonen tried the same move a lap later and was convinced that this time the Dutchman moved late to defend his line, forcing the Finn to brake hard to avoid a catastrophic accident.
It was not the first time Verstappen’s driving style had come under question, and it prompted drivers to ask F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting to have a word with the 18-year-old.
The thirteenth round of the 2016 Formula 1 season also saw the introduction of Esteban Ocon, a promising Mercedes junior driver, who replaced Rio Haryanto at Manor Racing MRT, after the Indonesian was unable to fulfil his contract requirements in terms of the sponsorship money he was to bring to the team in order to secure a race seat.
Italian Grand Prix
Rosberg cut Hamilton’s lead in the driver’s championship to just two points when he took victory at Monza, after another poor start from the Brit hampered his chances of sealing the win. The 31-year-old had qualified on pole with a stunning lap to take the top spot on Saturday, and looked for all the world like he was the man to beat going into race day.
But once again his getaway off the line proved to be Hamilton’s downfall, when he dropped back to sixth place after stuttering at the start. Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas and Ricciardo all sped by the Mercedes driver, as team-mate Rosberg sailed off into the distance upfront, leaving the Brit to mount his recovery sharpish.
He took care of the Australian by the second chicane, but it took him until lap 11 to get by the Williams of Bottas. The two Ferrari drivers were Hamilton’s next hurdle, but as he began to gain on them, they both peeled into the pits to make their first round of stops. Hamilton meanwhile stayed out, on a one stop strategy compared to the Scuderia’s two, and began his charge to catch up with Rosberg, who by now was fifteen seconds up the road.
The Brit had brought the gap down to just over twelve seconds by the time the German made his one and only pit stop on lap 23, before making his own the next time around. The German’s lead was brought down further still to nine seconds, but that was where it stopped. Rosberg upped the ante and it was clear Hamilton would not be able to catch his team-mate whilst also managing his tyres to make the one stop work.
The Brit would have to make do with second place, and be happy that with such a poor start it could have been much worse. Vettel took the final podium place, in a race where the Italian squad definitely had the edge over the rest of the field barring Mercedes.
It was a relatively quiet race, spiced up by some close battles brought about by the honey badger’s need to experience some action. Coming from way back at Turn 1, Ricciardo pulled off a brilliant move to overtake Bottas for fifth place.
The Italian Grand Prix weekend also saw both Felipe Massa and Jenson Button announce that they would not be racing in F1 in 2017. Whilst the Brazilian’s announcement was of definite retirement after a fourteen-year career in the sport, Button insisted it would not be the last time we saw him.
The Brit advised that he would instead be taking on an advisory/ambassador role with McLaren-Honda, whilst Vandoorne would be taking over as a full-time driver next year. Adding that he would be taking a one-year sabbatical, with a deal in place to drive for the team again in 2018, should both he and McLaren choose to take up that option.
Singapore Grand Prix
The Singapore Grand Prix saw Rosberg take back the lead in the championship, and with it a psychological blow to Hamilton, who was out of sorts all weekend.
It was a three days to forget for the Brit, who struggled to get the right set-up in his W07 after losing time in practice due to a hydraulic failure on Friday, and subsequently only managing to qualify third on the grid.
It was instead Ricciardo that provided the only competition to Rosberg, going close to taking victory, following a late in the day charge. As the German took the chequered flag, the Australian was just five tenths of a second behind him.
It was a steady start for Hamilton, but he remained in third position off the line, whilst Verstappen got bogged down, causing a back log of cars and instigating the collision between Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr. The German caught the front wheel of the Spaniard, causing him to spin into the barrier, immediately bringing out the safety car, who led the train of cars into the pitlane, so that the debris could be safely cleared from the track.
The race got back underway on lap 4, but unbeknownst to the drivers, one of the marshals had not heard the call to retreat and was still on track as the cars charged down to the first corner, narrowly missing the now sprinting worker.
Alonso had capitalised off the start, and having lined up in ninth on the grid, was now up into fifth. The Spaniard remained there for a good portion of the race, before being passed by Vettel and Verstappen in the later stages. Nevertheless, Alonso had to be happy with coming home in seventh place, at a track the McLaren-Honda team did not think would suit their package.
Verstappen also had an intense battle with the man he replaced at Red Bull, Kvyat, who squeezed the Dutchman close to the wall on a number of occasions as the 18-year-old tried to get by. He could not penetrate the Russian’s defence however, and in the end Red Bull pitted him to avoid any unwanted incidents.
Both Mercedes drivers were struggling with overheating brakes, but the problem seemed to be effecting Hamilton more greatly, as he was caught and overtaken by the Ferrari of Raikkonen after making a mistake at Turn 7, causing him to lose his third place to the Finn after the first round of pit stops.
When Raikkonen made his second stop, the Brit followed him in a lap later, but remained behind the Finn on exit, at which point the 31-year-old asked his team to try to do something to get him out of the current situation. The team responded by switching Hamilton’s strategy, allowing him to race to catch up Raikkonen rather than manage his tyres, as he had been doing. Once close behind the Finn, the Brit pitted, forcing both Ferrari and Red Bull to follow suit.
The plan worked, and Hamilton leapfrogged back ahead of the Ferrari, comfortably holding onto third position until the end of the race,
A suspension failure in qualifying for Vettel, had seen the German have to start the Singapore Grand Prix from the back of the grid. The four-time world champion completed a strong recovery drive to finish in fifth place in the end.
Malaysian Grand Prix
Ricciardo won the sixteenth round of the 2016 Formula 1 championship, in a race result that could have huge consequences for the title race.
Having looked like he would cruise to victory, after leading the Malaysian Grand Prix for a fair chunk of the race to lap 43, Hamilton was dealt a cruel blow when flames began to pour from the engine of his W07, forcing him to retire from the race.
A perfectly executed one-stop strategy should have gifted Hamilton victory in Malaysia, after securing pole position in qualifying, and pulling away off the line into a comfortable lead, but once again technical issues reared their ugly head for the Brit and his hopes of winning the title, let alone the race, were dashed.
With team-mate Rosberg having taken a hit from Vettel at the start, when an attempted move up the inside of Verstappen by the Ferrari driver went wrong, it looked like Hamilton would be in with a very real chance of taking back the championship lead. Rosberg fell down to the back of the grid, before embarking on an attempt to make his way up through the field. He drove well to climb to fourth place, before passing Raikkonen at Turn 2 to take third place on lap 38.
It was not a clean pass by the German however, and the pair collided. The stewards deemed Rosberg to be at fault for the coming together and awarded him a ten second time penalty, however he was able to carve out a big enough lead to ensure that even with the penalty, he would still secure the final podium position.
At the time Hamilton’s engine expired, a virtual safety car period began as they made to recover the car from the track, prompting Red Bull, whose drivers had been battling close together, with Verstappen hounding Ricciardo for the lead, decided to bring both drivers in for a fresh set of tyres. That gave the Australian a couple of seconds advantage on his team-mate, which was enough to see him cross the line as the victor.
Another fantastic start from Alonso, becoming a bit of a habit for the Spaniard, saw him once again claim a solid top ten finish, by coming home in seventh place, with team-mate Button also bringing home points in ninth, to complete a strong race for McLaren.
Also scoring his first point for the season, and in F1, was Jolyon Palmer, who finished in tenth, having started from nineteenth on the grid.
Japanese Grand Prix
Another poor start from Hamilton, saw him drop further back in the championship title stakes as Rosberg went on to win in Japan.
After his problems in Malaysia last time out, Hamilton really needed to have a strong Japanese Grand Prix, but the Brit once again got bogged down off the line and was swamped by those cars coming up behind him, dropping him down the order to eighth. Hamilton made no excuses after the race, stating categorically that it was his mistake.
Rosberg meanwhile went on to take his ninth win of the season, meaning he now only had to finish second at the remaining races to take the title. It was a dominating performance from the German all weekend, who was fastest in all practice sessions, as well as taking pole position.
The result could have been much worse for Hamilton, if it had not been for an aggressive strategy and some hard racing from the Brit, he would have finished off the podium and almost be handing the title to Rosberg on a plate. As it was, he made a good recovery in the end to take the final podium place.
Having passed the Force India of Hulkenberg after his bad start, Mercedes opted to keep Hamilton out on a longer first stint than the majority of his rivals. It was a shrewd plan, allowing the Brit to get the jump on Raikkonen and Perez, before passing Ricciardo at 130R, to move up to fourth place. Further moves on both Williams drivers followed before Hamilton chased down Vettel in third place. The Brit brought a gap of fourteen seconds down to just four, before taking a pit stop on lap 33.
Vettel followed suit a lap later but came out behind Hamilton, although the German was on the softer tyre option. The four-time world champion did start to close in on the Brit for a few laps, before the Mercedes driver began to pull clear once again.
The 31-year-old now had his sights set on second placed Verstappen, and with nine laps remaining he was right up behind the Dutchman. Despite his superior pace and fresher tyres however, Hamilton was unable to get by, though he continued to try. One last attempt on the final lap saw him pushed wide by Verstappen when he tried a move round the outside at the chicane, forcing him to run straight on, remaining in third place.
The Brit complained over team radio that the Dutchman was moving under braking, and Mercedes lodged a complaint, but revoked it shortly after the race.
United States Grand Prix
Hamilton has always gone well at the Circuit of the Americas and 2016 was no exception, as the Brit took a much needed victory in Texas.
Hamilton halted Rosberg’s momentum to take a dominant win in Austin, having qualified on pole on Saturday. The Brit led off the line, and the rest was plain sailing as he remained out ahead for the whole of the race. Behind him meanwhile, Rosberg was out-gunned by Ricciardo as he took on the German round the outside of Turn 2, with the Australian sneaking himself by.
They remained in that order after the first round of pit stops, and would have continued in that manner after the second, had it not been for the inopportune gearbox failure of Ricciardo’s team-mate Verstappen. The incident saw the virtual safety car activated whilst the RB12 was recovered from the unhelpful place it had stopped on track, allowing Mercedes to in effect gain a “free” pit stop for both their drivers, securing second place for Rosberg ahead of the Australian.
It was a bizarre situation, as Verstappen first of all incorrectly thought he had been called into the pits by the team, he had not and the mechanics were not ready for him. That lost the Dutchman time, dropping him down to sixth place, before three laps later his gearbox failed.
Ferrari failed to attach a wheel properly on Raikkonen’s car after his pit stop, forcing the Finn to stop the car at the end of the pitlane, and seeing the Italian team handed a £4, 500 fine for an unsafe release.
Alonso, Sainz Jr and Massa provided some entertainment in the final few laps as they battled it out for fifth place. The McLaren driver was at the back of the trio and after waiting to see if the Brazilian would make a pass on the Toro Rosso, he decided to take matters into his own hands with an opportunistic move on Massa at Turn 15. The two brushed wheels slightly, with the Williams driver sustaining a slow puncture, but managing to hold on and finish in seventh place.
Next up for the Spaniard was fellow countryman Sainz Jr who he had closed up on by the next lap. A move on the STR11 at the first corner was defended by the younger Spaniard, but Alonso made the pass stick at Turn 12, when he dived up the inside of the Toro Rosso to take the place. The McLaren driver was heard to shout “Yee-haw” over team radio as he moseyed on into the distance.
Mexican Grand Prix
The title chase was kept alive in Mexico as Hamilton took another vital win, despite running wide at the first corner after locking up and running offline. It was also a race filled with controversy, and involved a team radio meltdown for one of the drivers.
Hamilton was relatively untroubled for the majority of the race, as he went on to take the 51st win of his career, leaving him nineteen points adrift of Rosberg with just two races now remaining. It was a much more eventful race for his team-mate however, who collided with the Red Bull of Verstappen at the first corner, with the German having to take to the grass to avoid a more serious incident occurring.
Both cases of the Mercedes drivers running off track and returning in the same position were investigated by stewards, but it was deemed no further action was necessary.
Rosberg was to have the Dutchman for company for most of the race, with the German keeping the upper hand until lap 50, when he locked up going into Turn 1, whilst trying to lap the Toro Rosso of Sainz Jr. It was all the opportunity Verstappen needed to make a move, and he dived down the inside of the Mercedes at Turn 4, but could not stop the RB12 in time and ran wide.
That error caused the Dutchman to drop back, giving the German enough time to make his escape. Now it was the 19-year-old’s turn to come under pressure, this time in the form of his own team-mate Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Vettel.
Having run a much longer last stint prior to pitting than his rivals, Vettel had a much fresher set of tyres bolted on for the final part of the race, allowing the German to close right up to within a second of Verstappen.
On lap 68 the Dutchman locked up at the first corner and ran wide onto the grass before cutting the corner and returning to the track in the same place. Verstappen did not give up the place and that infuriated Vettel who began an abusive tirade over team radio to vent his frustration, regarding Verstappen and even calling out F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting, which he apologised for after the race.
As Vettel tried and tried to get by, the Dutchman kept up the fight, as well as backing him into Ricciardo, who by now had closed right up to the rear of the German. At the start of the penultimate lap the trio were almost touching they were so close.
Ricciardo saw his chance at Turn 4 and moved to pass Vettel up the inside, but the German blocked the Australian by moving under braking, an action that had recently been flagged up as dangerous driving by the FIA, who brought in a new rule to ensure such behaviour was punished.
The tussle split the three cars on track, and it was Verstappen that came home third, from Vettel and Ricciardo. However shortly after the race, and before the podium ceremony, the stewards, who had been investigating the Verstappen/Vettel incident deemed that the Dutchman had gained an advantage by cutting the corner and he was issued with a five second time penalty, demoting him to fifth place.
That pushed Vettel up into the final podium spot and on track the German took part in the celebrations. However, in a further twist in the tale, later that evening the stewards decided that Vettel’s defence from Ricciardo had been dangerous and he too was handed a time penalty, this time of ten seconds, demoting him to fifth place behind Verstappen, with Ricciardo deemed the rightful podium sitter, eventually being awarded third.
Brazilian Grand Prix
The Brazilian Grand Prix was one of the most exciting races of the season, as the floodgates opened and treacherous downpours once again adorned the Interlagos track, but Hamilton being a master of such conditions, did not let that stop him.
The Brit took the 52nd win of his F1 career with relative ease, going one better than Alain Prost (51), with only Michael Schumacher (91) now having won more races in the history of the sport.
The race was a crash fest with several high speed accidents, leading to two race stoppages and the introduction of five safety cars, in what was a hugely delayed race. There were scary incidents for Raikkonen, Marcus Ericsson and Massa, who all retired from the race after crashing on the pit straight.
Lapping consistently faster than everyone else on track, only Verstappen’s performance perhaps outshone that of the triple world champion. The Dutchman, seemed to have no problems finding the grip in the wet, making passes on parts of the track that others dare not venture. His move on Rosberg round the outside of Turn 3 on lap 32 was one of his best.
Had Red Bull not gambled on fitting intermediate tyres to Verstappen’s car on lap 43, the 19-year-old would most likely have finished the race in second place, the switch did not work out however as the rain intensified and he had to return to the pits to bolt on full wets.
That left Verstappen down in fourteenth place, and it was his recovery drive to reach the final step of the podium, that really set the world alight, passing driver after driver, without fear or hesitation along the way.
The 19-year-old also completed the save of the race when he span the RB12 on the straight, but recovered but recovered the car as it careered towards the barrier, as well as keeping hold of his then second place. The Dutchman showed enormous skill, with many likening his performance to that of Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
It was a good race for the Sauber F1 Team who bagged two points when driver Nasr came home in tenth place. That result gave them their first points of the season with one race remaining, but more crucially seeing them springboard above Manor, allowing the Swiss squad to claim a bigger share of the prize fund, and dealing a cruel blow to Manor so close to the end of the season.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the season finale
Hamilton won the final race of the 2016 Formula 1 season, however it was not enough for the Brit to take the title, that honour went to Rosberg in second, having only needed to finish in third place or higher to be crowned world champion.
Hamilton went into the final race of the season with a twelve-point deficit to his team-mate, knowing he would probably need some sort of miracle to see him achieve a fourth world title. He was not going to let the chance go by easily however, and he tactically brought other drivers into play by driving extremely slowly.
That put Rosberg under pressure, from Verstappen, Ricciardo and Vettel, for most of the race but he held on to take second and his first world title.
Hamilton had to control the race from the front to have any chance of reversing the current position in the championship, and that he did, getting a good start off the line to lead the grand prix. All was well until the first round of pit stops, when Rosberg came out behind the Red Bull of Verstappen, on a differing strategy to everyone else after spinning at the start and falling down to the back of the grid.
A strong recovery drive and longer first stint for the Dutchman, saw him in second place after everyone had pitted, meaning Rosberg would now have to pass him to get by. The German did make a couple of attempts to move past Verstappen, but thought better of it when the 19-year-old began to defend aggressively.
With Rosberg unable to get by and Ricciardo and Vettel closing in, the German began to query over team radio whether something could be done about Hamilton’s pace. Mercedes asked the Brit on a number of occasions to up his speed but each time he declined their instruction, telling them, including Technical Director Paddy Lowe, to just “let them race”.
Eventually, after being warned by the team that he had to get by Verstappen now, Rosberg passed the Dutchman, whose tyres were by now wearing down, to secure second place, and the Brit’s strategy was all for nothing.
Despite feeling the heat, Rosberg still managed to maintain second place, which was all he needed to secure his place in history, winning the 2016 world title, thirty-four years after his father Keke had done the same.
Hamilton’s tactics during the race were not approved of by Mercedes however, who felt the 31-year-old could have ruined their chances of completing a one-two finish in the race. Disobeying team orders is not something they expect of their drivers, and bosses confirmed his actions would be discussed after the race.
Vettel took the final podium place, to end the year strongly for Ferrari, who had not had the strongest of seasons in 2016, and the grand prix also signalled the final ever race for Button and Massa who retired from the sport, to make way for younger stars.
On the day following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Rosberg made the shock announcement that he would be retiring from the sport having now achieved his childhood dream of winning the title. Mercedes now have to work quickly to find a suitable replacement, whoever that may be…