Abu Dhabi GP: Nico Rosberg ends 2015 F1 season with another win
Nico Rosberg finished the 2015 season by completing the first victory hat-trick of his Formula 1 career, beating Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It was a relatively comfortable lights-to-flag triumph at the Yas Marina circuit for Rosberg, who has been unstoppable since Hamilton won his third F1 title in October.
Rosberg has won every subsequent race, finishing another runner-up campaign with six successive pole positions in total, and a run of wins that took him to 14 overall and provided him with a lift ahead of the 2016 campaign.
Come the end of the 55 laps Rosberg finished 8.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton, who opted for a different race strategy in a bid to find a way past the German, only to fall short.
When Rosberg made his second stop on lap 31 of 55, Hamilton opted to stay out rather than pit on the following lap.
As Hamilton extended the life out of a set of soft Pirelli tyres there followed an exchange of messages between driver and the pitwall over to whether he could go to the end of the race.
With Rosberg closing rapidly, Hamilton eventually pitted for a second time after 41 laps, but rather than taking on super-softs – although he had no new sets left, only used – the switch was to softs, leaving him with a 12.5s deficit.
There was another brief surge, but ultimately it was a forlorn battle for Hamilton who had to settle for runner-up to Rosberg again.
Behind Mercedes’ 12th one-two of the season – a new F1 record – Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finished on the podium for only the third time this year, and for once ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who rose from 15th on the grid to fourth.
Force India duo Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg finished a strong fifth and seventh either side of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Williams driver Felipe Massa was eighth, followed by Romain Grosjean in his final race for Lotus ahead of his move next year to Haas. The Frenchman used an alternative strategy and a late charge on super-softs to come through from 19th on the grid.
Daniil Kvyat completed the top 10 in his Red Bull, fending off Carlos Sainz Jr.
Incidents in a hectic first part of the race included a collision in the pitlane between Williams’s Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Jenson Button.
As Bottas was released – unsafely according to the stewards as he was penalised with a five-second time penalty – and as Button cut across into his pitbox, the Finn caught the rear of the Briton.
The incident resulted in damage to Button’s rear wing, while Bottas sustained front-wing damage, leading to a long, slow lap back to the pits for a new nose.
That relegated Bottas to 18th at the time, with Fernando Alonso the only man behind as the two-time champion had required his own new front wing at the end of lap one in the wake of a first-corner crash with Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus.
It was the ninth time this year Maldonado had retired, while Alonso’s error incurred the wrath of the stewards as he was also penalised with a drive-through penalty for causing a collision.
Running around at the rear, and just before the midway point of the race, Alonso suggested he had had enough when he declared over the radio: "If we don’t get a safety car I will retire the car".
The Spaniard, however, kept going to the flag, ending his worst season – in terms of points scored – since his 2001 debut with Minardi – down in 17th, with only Manor duo Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi behind him.
RESULTS – 55 LAPS:
|5||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||1m03.952s|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||1m05.010s|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India/Mercedes||1m33.618s|
|10||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull/Renault||1m42.371s|
|11||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso/Renault||1m43.525s|
|12||Jenson Button||McLaren/Honda||1 Lap|
|13||Valtteri Bottas||Williams/Mercedes||1 Lap|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|15||Felipe Nasr||Sauber/Ferrari||1 Lap|
|16||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso/Renault||1 Lap|
|17||Fernando Alonso||McLaren/Honda||2 Laps|
|18||Will Stevens||Marussia/Ferrari||2 Laps|
|19||Roberto Merhi||Marussia/Ferrari||3 Laps|
FINAL DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
FINAL CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: