In a tense showdown at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg delivered a performance deserving of the championship as he had all the answers for Lewis Hamilton.
Battles from within
Over the past few seasons, Formula 1 fans have witnessed Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg go toe-to-toe in the world championship as the machinery underneath them has been the class of the field and catapulted the two to levels very few others have matched.
During this time period, the two have delighted us with some truly scintillating performances and wheel-to-wheel racing. Until this year, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton has emerged the victor as his blistering pace and domineering persona piled the pressure on his German colleague and caused an intoxicating environment in which the German has struggled through.
The overwhelming consensus is that Hamilton has a pace advantage over his team-mate and in order for Rosberg to take 25 points at the fall of the chequered flag, the Briton must suffer mechanical failures and other misfortunes that ever cause him to retire or put him too far back from Rosberg. The fact that the rest of the field has been so far back has only aided in the microscope being trained upon the Brackley-based team and furthered this notion.
The media, in Britain especially, have no qualms reminding us that they see Lewis Hamilton as the de facto number one not just because of his obvious raw talent, but also because of his marketability and international stardom. Make no mistake, as a global brand you want someone of his influence championing your cause. Sorry conspiracy theorists, but that’s the way it is. Case closed.
At every race weekend, Nico Rosberg not only has the arduous task of outperforming the Goliath that is Hamilton, but also has to navigate the mammoth psychological battleground that is the media circus. The task of having Lewis as a team-mate is an unenviable one. However, Nico Rosberg has dealt with this very well, and in their fourth year as the Silver Arrows partnership, his monumental efforts have come to fruition. One should not underestimate his successes.
Consistency is key
As Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle articulated in the emotional aftermath of the duel in the desert, the Formula 1 World Championship is a long old slog and no one champion is an undeserving one. He commented that one could spend an eternity rifling through the history books and contending the overall standings of a number of seasons.
One of the beautiful things about Formula 1 is that on occasion it tends to throw some unpredictability and controversy our way. The formula is first and foremost a form of motorsport. The word itself perfectly explains what is required in order to prevail on the biggest stage: human and mechanical performance. No doubt, some Lewis Hamilton fans will bemoan their the misfortunes endured by their hero this year, but at the end of the day it changes nothing and it happens. Just in case you were wondering, I am a Lewis Hamilton supporter, but also a realist.
Very few in the distant future will still care about the mechanical gremlins this year. 2016 will be remembered as the year of Nico Rosberg consistently being on the podium and this being the reason for his victory. He’s had some off races for sure, but then Lewis has too. Qualifying in Baku and the whole Singapore weekend come to mind. I was screaming these at the TV during Abu Dhabi’s Thursday press conference as Lewis asked the room to remind him of his below-par performances.
Dealing with the pressure
Consistency is something that Nico Rosberg has really nailed this year. Not only had he collected enough podium silverware to place him in the driving seat heading into the season close, but he has also ironed out the small mistakes from Rosberg of old.
The past couple of seasons have seen him buckle under the weight of a world championship wrangle. Driving errors and gusts of wind have rendered him unable to move past the designation of F1’s nearly-man and join his father as world champion.
This year, his approach has matured and it has paid dividends.
Perhaps knowing that Hamilton’s aforementioned pace edge had his rival already crowned before the year had begun, Nico adopted the approach of taking each race as it came, rolling with the punches and he has reaped the reward. He has won when he has been on top, but also done just enough when he has been unable to do so. Winning is fantastic, the perfect result, but the end goal is the championship and nothing is more important for a championship push. Rosberg’s 9 victories to Hamilton’s 10 prove my point here.
Nowhere was Rosberg doing what he had to do more evident than at the floodlit Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday evening. Lewis Hamilton (understandably) ignored the orders issued over his team radio and attempted valiantly to swing the pendulum his way.
Rosberg’s skill and determination did not waiver as he expertly navigated his Silver Arrow around the bucking Bull of Max Verstappen. It was a daring move that was inches from catastrophe, but good drivers and champions are divided by inches and this time nothing would deny Rosberg. He then kept his cool as his compatriot Sebastian Vettel crept up to his rear wing in the Scarlet prancing horse. Rosberg of old would have locked up, or had an off-track excursion perhaps. Not today, not this night. He did brilliantly to judge the situation by keeping a distance to his team-mate and driving just fast enough to hold station.
The drive epitomised a stellar season. He drove very well indeed and did exactly what he needed to do in order to take home the spoils. He drove a brilliant race and season, as did Lewis Hamilton. To overcome the issues and deficits that Lewis has this year is no mean feat. He can be extremely proud of his performances even if his tally fell short in the end.
Both drivers will be thoroughly exhausted after a race and season packed to the rafters with emotion. To see two sportsmen at the peak of their abilities enter the arena and hold nothing back has been a special thing to observe.
In the end, Nico Rosberg has put a lifetime of being the number two behind him to finally overcome the toughest of opponents and for me, it is a massive achievement.
Congratulations to our sport’s newest world champion, Nico Rosberg.
I’ll leave you with the amazing image of seeing a sportsman caught in an incredible moment as the realisation of achieving his childhood dream and overcoming his demons sets in. Wow.