It’s all said and done. Nico Rosberg is the 2016 Formula One World Champion. Some may not like that fact, but they will have to accept it. Whilst yes – it is true that Rosberg had better reliability than Lewis Hamilton (I shall not go into details, but Jack Amey has done so here), it is not as if this is the first championship in Formula One’s long history to be affected by reliability. It is not Rosberg’s fault that Hamilton had a bit less luck this time around, nor is it Hamilton’s. But the exact same thing could be said of both 2014 and 2015, where Rosberg was the one who suffered the brunt of reliability problems.
Rosberg vs Hamilton vs Mercedes
In an era of social media and “post-truth” comments seemingly overwhelming what we knew beforehand, Rosberg’s achievement – something he has worked his entire life towards, has perhaps been downplayed a bit. The fact is this: Rosberg is as deserving of the World Championship as any of the 32 men who won the World Championship before him. The status of Formula One World Champion does not come with an asterisk (except for Alberto Ascari, because he only won F1 titles when the races were run to Formula Two regulations), but should be embraced by all.
There are also plenty of fresh claims that this championship has been “manufactured” by Mercedes. Sure, this championship was “manufactured” by Mercedes if you will, but that’s because they built the car. They also “manufactured” the championship for Hamilton in 2014 and again in 2015, and how Red Bull “manufactured” the four championships prior to that. The completely absurd claims of sabotage are also very fresh. It should be reiterated that these silly claims of sabotage is a massive insult to the many men and women who put in a lot of long hours into getting those two cars to operate.
Non-scores due to mechanical problems:
ROS 3 – 0 HAM
ROS 3 – 2 HAM
ROS 2 – 1 HAM
ROS 0 – 1 HAM
— Craig Woollard (@Craig_O_F1) October 2, 2016
Hamilton will go down as one of the most successful and one of the greatest Formula One drivers in history, not just of this generation. Sure, 2016 was not his strongest season to date, but he fought hard despite the setbacks he had. Perhaps at times he fought a little bit too hard, and that may have resulted in part of the surrendering of his crown. It is almost certain that he will fight just as hard to snatch the championship back from Rosberg next year.
There was no one race where this championship was won or lost. That’s because there was 21 races this season. #StatingTheObvious
— Craig Woollard (@Craig_O_F1) November 27, 2016
Abu Dhabi provided a fairly strange situation where we saw the leader purposely not trying particularly hard at a point in the race in an attempt to ruin his team mate’s race. This made the race and championship climax beyond fascinating and exciting and Hamilton should be applauded from that perspective. His tactics, which some claim are “dirty”, however, have come under criticism. Having not been in such a situation, it would be tough to say explicitly whether such a tactic would be adopted by this writer, but it would certainly be considered. What Hamilton did was legal. It has been done before (the 1997 European Grand Prix for example) and it will almost certainly be done again. However, “dirty tactics” (which ironically his rival has been accused of in the past) will not go down well with everybody. But sometimes, doing everything possible to try and win is what separates the great, from the very great. At least Hamilton did not intentionally crash into his rival, as that would be an entirely different discussion in itself.
There is precisely nothing within the rulebook which states that you cannot back drivers up like that. There was a similar situation at the London ePrix championship decider earlier this year in fact. It has also happened in other series before, and it will almost certainly happen again in the future.
Rosberg played the numbers game to win his first title. You can both win and lose championships by through this method – Niki Lauda in 1984, Nelson Piquet in 1987 and Jenson Button in 2009 did just that. Rosberg was presented with a really good opportunity and he took it. He did not crack under pressure as he did so frequently back in 2014, and seemed much sharper in terms of on-track battling than he did in 2015. Rosberg pulled off a cracking move on Max Verstappen in the race at Abu Dhabi (how many people can boast that in 2016?) and withstood immense pressure at the end of the race. It was some way to take a first title. Arguably it was as tense as the final race of 2008.
How all of this will affect the relationship at Mercedes next year is going to be absolutely fascinating. They will have two World Champions within their ranks for the first time, and Hamilton and Rosberg have been lukewarm at best since becoming team mates there. Mercedes were also under scrutiny for trying to get involved in the proceedings at Abu Dhabi. Mercedes are there to try and get a 1-2 at every Grand Prix, which is perfectly understandable. However, with the World Constructors’ Championship more than wrapped up, it would be fair to say that they would have been better off leaving the two drivers to do as they please, provided they don’t take each other off the road.
Just notice how much air time the two Mercedes were getting as they fought at the front with Verstappen and a charging Sebastian Vettel. Dominating at the front in every race looks good on paper, but it does not make for an exciting championship finale, which is precisely what we got. Mercedes should perhaps consider changing their own internal rulebook to allow for this sort of circumstance in the future. Ultimately, those guys are there to win races and to win championships, and sometimes the best interest of the team and the best interest of the driver do not match. Perhaps having the World Constructors’ Championship as the main priority, followed by the World Drivers’ Championship, followed by individual race wins is a better way to go.
Looking at things from a different perspective however, Hamilton could be looked at as trying to be “bigger than the team” at Abu Dhabi. It is not the first time Hamilton has disobeyed team orders, whilst Rosberg appears to be a bit less reluctant to them. However, as it could also be argued that such a team order should not have been given in the first place; in this instance it would be harsh to claim that Hamilton is “bigger than Mercedes”. He might need to be a bit more cautious in the future however, as Mercedes may not want to renew his contract when it expires if they feel that one of their rapidly improving junior drivers would fit the role better.
Perhaps this is a bit of an over-analysis of what has occurred at Mercedes in recent times but there were so many talking points from Mercedes and their drivers to come out of Abu Dhabi and this season as a whole. Motor racing is a strange sport at times, which is why the result of this championship has come as a bit of a shock to some. But it’s all said and done. Let’s look ahead, and not behind, to what could be a cracking year in 2017.