Rosberg’s title triumph set to see Hamilton rivalry intensify in 2017 Drivers’ Championship
Lee Gormley | 2 December 2016
Rosberg crowned champion in Abu Dhabi
A dramatic 2016 Drivers’ Championship campaign came to a close in Abu Dhabi as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was crowned world champion for the first time in his career, despite teammate Lewis Hamilton winning the race.
The German’s maiden world title was won by a narrow five-point margin over British steerer Hamilton, in spite of the latter having disobeyed team orders by slowing down at the front of proceedings in an attempt to bring others into battle.
Hamilton’s exploits came as he was leading the pack and knew Rosberg had to finish outside the top three in order for him to retain his crown, having been told by his Mercedes management not to try any strategic games to hinder his teammate.
The Briton’s attempts saw Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen close in on Rosberg while tense radio messages were coming from Mercedes, but the latter German managed to withstand the pressure to prevail.
Following on from what was a thrilling final Grand Prix, Rosberg has been installed as the 10/3 fourth-favourite to retain his title next season, while Hamilton leads the odds as the 7/4 front runner for his fourth Championship crown.
Mercedes duo set for 2017 rivalry again
During the drama of the Abu Dhabi GP at the Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton was urged by his team’s hierarchy to restrain from trying to delay Rosberg, despite the Stevenage-born steerer needing his stablemate to fall out of the top three.
Such is the set-up of the sport, though, Hamilton’s competitive edge took over as he made several attempts to jeopardise Rosberg’s circuit. This led to much criticism for the three-time world champion, but in the scenario he was cast in, can he really be slammed for focusing on winning?
The 2017 Championship favourite had already been involved in a much-publicised rivalry with Rosberg way before taking to the final track of this past season, with the pair having been colliding all campaign.
That intense Mercedes civil war is set to recommence next term when the pair will once again be battling it out for silverware success, though it’s undoubtedly a blessing for the roster to boast two world champions in their armoury.
Mercedes also have a potential problem to fix if their drivers’ rivalry boils over next season, though Hamilton did put any feud aside in the aftermath to embrace Rosberg and congratulate him on the podium.
Rosberg’s patient wait pays off
Rosberg’s win saw huge amounts of work, dedication and despair finally pay off in Abu Dhabi as he emulated his father in becoming a F1 world champion.
The 31-year-old joined Mercedes back in 2010 and has had to be patient, having had two greats of the sport as teammates since arriving on the scene, in the form of previously dominant compatriot Michael Schumacher and Hamilton.
With the latter having come under fire for his supposed unsporting conduct during the circuit, which was dubbed ‘the Duel in the Desert’, Hamilton was quick to defend his tactics.
“There was no point sitting up front, winning the GP and having him come second. I had to try. With all the issues I had through the year, it left me in the position I am in now,” stated the Championship runner-up.
Despite the ploy used to try and end his title charge, Rosberg admitted he had no complaints and understood why such measures were taken by Hamilton, declaring: “I can understand the team asking him to speed up, and me also asking, but I can understand his point too. It is the world championship and I understand he wanted to try something.
“I understand he wanted to try something…”
“He did it really, really well because there was no chance to overtake him at the same time. In the first sector he was fast and flat-out so I could never get close for a pass and then he slowed down in the rest of the track and the others could come back.
“Lewis is an unbelievable competitor, one of the best of all time, [in the] longest season ever I beat him in unbelievably tough conditions.”
The main threat to Rosberg’s throne next season will unquestionably be teammate Hamilton, who showcased tremendous pace in the latter stages of the campaign, though if any other driver could possibly outshine the German’s achievements it’s Max Verstappen.
Verstappen’s rise to continue in 2017
Red Bull’s teenage sensation shot to stardom this year with his impressive outings alongside teammate Daniel Ricciardo, as he became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner when prevailing in Australia.
The 19-year-old had been promoted from Toro Rosso following the Russian circuit to replace Daniil Kvyat for the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, with his abilities being proven early on in his career. After his superb showings this term he has been instilled as the 11/4 second-favourite to win the 2017 crown.
Hamilton looks set to bounce back strongly next campaign and is instated as the front runner to reclaim the title, though other Red Bull steerer Ricciardo also proved his worth recently and is 3/1 to prevail outright.
It’s Rosberg that will enter proceedings as the defending champion, though, after his maiden Championship coup, and the victorious German is set to go head-to-head once again with his Mercedes teammate for Formula 1 supremacy in the next chapter of their entertaining and intriguing rivalry.