Formula One: Nico Rosberg seals third straight win
Champion Lewis Hamilton is second at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as Mercedes dominate
Nico Rosberg wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: his recent wins will be tainted by the suspicion that his championship-winning team-mate Lewis Hamilton has lost some intensity. Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP Photo
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix started in a blaze of sunshine but ended under a fast dusking sky in a way that was symbolic of Lewis Hamilton’s 2015 Formula One season.
This has been easily the most dominant of his three championship-winning years but it must have felt as if a cloud rather than a curtain had come down at the end of the show.
He has won 10 races and taken 11 pole positions on his way to sealing the championship by the swaggering margin of 59 points, yet his podium smiles did not disguise the fact that he was pervaded by a strange sense of anticlimax.
Nico Rosberg’s third straight win, to go with his six successive poles, may not mean a whole lot in the context of what will transpire next year but it has removed a layer of gloss from Hamilton’s grin. Hamilton was second best to his Mercedes team-mate and arch rival – his only serious rival – just as he has been since securing his third title in Texas a month ago.
After coming in for a late second change of tyres he emerged 13 seconds behind with 14 laps remaining and immediately began to cut large chunks of time out of the German’s lead. But then his lap gains began to decrease and Rosberg knew he had the race won, his sixth victory of the season. The margin was an emphatic 8.2 seconds.
The only surprise was that Hamilton’s second change was for soft tyres, and not the faster super-soft tyres Mercedes appeared concerned would grain, but Sebastian Vettel managed to put in a longer stint on precisely the same rubber.
Before Hamilton came in, on the 41st lap, 10 laps later than Rosberg, he told his team he wanted to stay out on his by now rather venerable rubber. By then the German was cutting swathes into his lead.
“I’m not sure if I could have taken my tyres to the end – some part of me wishes I had just given it a go. But it was down to the team which tyre we went to for the final stint,” he said afterwards.
“In hindsight, once Nico pitted I probably should have backed off a little bit, and I’d have made those tyres go a lot longer. The tyres were fine, so I honestly felt I could have taken them to the end, but that didn’t work.
“Going too long [before the final stop] was probably the wrong thing to do but we gave it a try and I did the best job I could with it.”
Under threatKimi Raikkonen
“Austin [the US GP] was the low point of the season. It was a tough weekend and since then I’ve come back a lot stronger and I’m very happy about that,” Rosberg said afterwards.
“It’s always tough to race Lewis. He’s doing an awesome job and he’s one of the best out there. It’s a great battle, internally, all the time. That’s what I race for, such battles and I look forward to more next year.”
Jenson Button was 12th, five places ahead of McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, who took Pastor Maldonado out at the start and wanted to retire his car at the halfway stage.
Ferrari’s Raikkonen finished on the podium for only the third time this year. His team-mate Vettel, who started 15th because his team had made a basic mistake in qualifying the day before, was fourth.
– (Guardian service)