This weekend’s grand prix in Abu Dhabi represented the culmination of the 19-race Formula 1 season. The strange ride has taken teams and fans around the world and came to a halt during the night race in the desert. Following the season-long trend, Mercedes locked out the front row for the 15th time and showed that for everyone else’s improvements they are still the class of the field.
Nico Rosberg used his P1 qualifying position to launch into the lead, getting near the six-second mark by lap 15 and held on through pit stops to earn his sixth win of the season. Lewis Hamilton took second, though he complained to the team about the tire strategy feeling he could have better challenged Rosberg for the win.
The championship may have been long ago decided when Hamilton clinched it in Texas but most everyone else still sought to claim their spot in the standings. The top five come as no surprise with Hamilton atop, followed by Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen and then Valterri Bottas. Raikkonen and Bottas are the two drivers who switched spots owing to the results of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
One thing worth noting is that Rosberg, using an older Mercedes power unit, bested the 2015 champion, Hamilton, by nearly four-tenths of a second. That Rosberg seemed to cruise to his third straight win shows that while he is often seen as an annoyance to Hamilton, he is still quite a more than capable driver. He is left to wonder what may have been when he finished eighth in Hungary, then 17th a couple races later in Italy, followed by a retirement in Russia two races after that.
This season again showed that whatever Mercedes is doing, they’re doing it well. While it looked like Ferrari may provide a capable challenge to Mercedes, they could do only so much as make themselves a threat but never one to be taken seriously. Though Vettel has stated that the gap is closing and 2016 should be the year they show their strength, there is nothing to suggest that Mercedes won’t again be looking to continue their success.
Odds & Sods
- In one of the most unlikely qualifying scenarios, four-time champion Vettel failed to advance from the first round. Vettel said he and the team miscalculated the lap time he had posted already, believing it to be good enough to make it through. As such, Vettel never pushed for a flying lap and cruised to the pits figuring he was safe. Instead, he’ll start 16th, making for a challenging finale in his first year at Ferrari.
- From the ridiculous rumor department comes the latest one that Fernando Alonso may sit out the 2016 season. McLaren team principal Ron Dennis made an overture toward this notion prior to this weekend’s race. While Alonso did have discussions with Dennis earlier in the year as McLaren struggled mightily, nothing in the past couple months has indicated that Alonso would be reconsidering such a move. Alonso is, at this point, a victim of his own celebrity. No one would be shocked if the F1 press had ‘breaking news on Alonso’ only to reveal that he switched barbers. It’s hard to know what games Alonso plays with the media as he doesn’t openly court them as much as someone like Hamilton but it does seem that he is happy seeing his name being bandied about even if it comes with a touch of absurdity.
- Romain Grosjean drove a spirited race, finishing ninth in his last ride for Lotus. Due to a gearbox change, he started from the pits and stealthily moved through the field. After the race, Grosjean, who will be driving for Haas F1 next year, could be seen handing over the proverbial keys of his ride to Jolyon Palmer, who will be assuming the seat.
- Speaking of Lotus, it seems that the deal between the team and Renault has hit one of the usual snags. What had seemed like a foregone conclusion is now one that requires further examination and work. Bernie Ecclestone has apparently applied the pressure to Renault to get it done by publicly stating that Lotus won’t exist without the takeover. This story will likely be one that stretches into the offseason, but finishing sixth should help Lotus enjoy a bit of the championship money dividends.
- Next year also looks to be one that will serve as a sequel to the Renault – Red Bull pairing. The drama that endured the length of the season is renewed, as Renault will be back as the engine supplier, with the hope that Renault will bring back substantial upgrades. Whether or not the changes will be enough to take on Mercedes is doubtful, but being able to run with Ferrari or Williams would be a welcome move.