…and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, of course.
I had intended to study the entire day for my exam, but revision ended much earlier than expected. There was also a football game at the same time as the season-ending GP, but given Liverpool’s woes, I didn’t exactly want to watch a terrible performance and take a negative mood into my exams. So it was the Abu Dhabi GP that I watched, and it was a race full of drama and emotion.
Of course, everyone will know by now that Lewis Hamilton won that race, and was crowned World Champion with that result. It was a dominant performance that showed off both the strength of the Mercedes W05, as well as its unreliability as Rosberg was struck down by ERS failure and trundled home 14th after opting to stay out to finish the race as a proud competitor rather than retire the car.
But I doubt the battle between the sister Mercedes would have materialised even if Rosberg didn’t hit mechanical trouble. Hamilton’s lightning getaway was as close to ‘driving like I stole it’ as any start I’ve ever seen in F1, taking the first corner at least 5 car lengths ahead. Thereafter, he built a small gap to Rosberg, slowly eking out time. When Massa came into the picture on the supersofts, he managed to get lap times that kept him out of trouble at the end of the race, without turning up his engine for fear of failure like what happened to Rosberg.
And no doubt, every fan will see Hamilton as the worthy champion. The balance of car retirements is even, but Hamilton hit more qualifying troubles than Rosberg did. Yet, he still managed 11 race wins, many of them seeing the British man overtake his rival on track. Rosberg’s father Keke won the championship with only 1 win and consistent finishes, and Rosberg would be a worthy champion in any other season. But it would be criminal if he won on double points with Hamilton having had more than double the race wins.
Beyond the dominant Mercedes, Williams showed their class with a double podium finish. Massa proved he still has some tricks up his sleeve with a fine 2nd place, and Bottas took 3rd, which elevated him to 4th in the Driver’s Championship. He did have a superior car to Alonso, but beating both him and Vettel in the standings is quite something, particularly since Ricciardo drove that Red Bull magnificently; the car has inherent pace, but Vettel never could exploit it this season.
The four-time world champion also had another forgettable race, starting from the pitlane with his teammate because of an illegal flexing wing, but ending up a long way back as Ricciardo drove to a brilliant 4th place. If he stayed with Red Bull any longer, it might really become embarrassing and prove Alonso’s words right; that he just had the best car and not enough competition, and is not really that talented at all.
Button underlined his skills with a 5th place that dragged McLaren up to 5th in the constructor’s ahead of Force India, saving them millions of dollars. To see such a great racer out of F1 will be a great shame, and McLaren dragging their feet is just bad management. Magnussen didn’t give a good showing again, trailing home outside of the top 10.
Force India, despite their development and financial woes, had a brilliant strategy that saw them overtaking cars with supersofts and their great straight-line speed at the end of the race, culminating in a fine 6th and 7th finish. Alonso and Raikkonen showed what a terrible Ferrari car they were driving this season as they were and ignominious P9 and P10 at the end of the race. With James Allison back at the team, they may have a better showing next season. But without an engine unfreeze, it could be a while before F1’s marquee is competitive again.
Kvyat had qualified ahead of Vergne once more, but had mechanical problems and had to retire. He might be quite the revelation at the senior team with his pace in qualifying, but we’ll see whether he can replicate the success of Ricciardo and Vettel as they moved up. Lotus and Sauber continued their miserable time, with Sauber only just ahead of Caterham, and Maldonado’s car farting flames as it died a miserable death. When the screen cut to the Lotus mechanics, they were having a huge laugh over the flaming car, which Maldonado didn’t even turn around to look at once he got out of it. I love the quirky Lotus team, and I hope with a Merc engine, they can become fast next season.
Caterham managed to return for this race, quite the amazing feat. But they were nowhere, with the major talking point being Will Stevens not giving way to Alonso. His radio message back demanded to know who was in the car, and his engineer told him it was ‘the new boy’, and that he had ‘much to learn’. Alonso echoed those words, which were quite amusing as a fan. But Stevens made a good account for himself in qualifying only 0.5s behind Kobayashi despite having practically no time behind the wheel, and might have a future in F1.
It was not the most exciting and thrilling race, but it was one steeped in emotion as Rosberg faced his mechanical issues, while Hamilton was visibly emotional and possibly even crying in the waiting room after the race, such was the impact of winning his second championship. The race was a microcosm of the season; Mercedes dominance and unreliability, Hamilton’s superior racecraft, Williams’ resurgence, Ricciardo’s domination, and Ferrari’s slump. It was a fitting end to a season of thrills and spills, of battles all over the track, of non-sterile domination by a single car. It won’t be one of the classic races we’ll remember for years to come; that title goes to Bahrain. But it was a good race.
And a hell of a lot better to watch than that horror show that was football. But that’s another story.