A tense, emotional, draining title fight and season was settled in one the most tense races of the season in Abu Dhabi. And it was Nico Rosberg who emerged as the victor after 21 gruelling races.
The season started off in Australia with a new and disliked Qualifying format. Nico Rosberg won after a horrific and potentially fatal crash between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez. Alonso has minor injuries and had to sit out the next race in Bahrain. The first race was also a great one for newcomers Haas F1. Star driver Romain Grosjean finished 6th on the team’s debut.
Rosberg then took 3 consecutive race wins in Bahrain, China and Russia and the gap from Rosberg in 1st and Lewis Hamilton in 2nd, would be 43 points. The Russian GP would be the last race for Daniil Kvyat at Red Bull. Kvyat collided with Sebastian Vettel and was replaced with Max Verstappen for the Spanish GP.
One of the most defining and anticipated moments of the season came during the race on lap 1 where at turn 4, Rosberg and Hamilton collided. This collision left Verstappen in the lead and the eventual winner. This made Verstappen F1’s youngest winner and Red Bull’s first win of the season.
Hamilton would then win in Monaco and in Canada. Rosberg would finish 7th and 5th but he bounced back and triumphed in F1’s newest location in Baku. Hamilton struggled all weekend and only came 5th in the race.
On the final lap of the Austrian GP, Rosberg and Hamilton would collide again. A comfortable 1-2 finish was thrown away when both collided when fighting for the lead. Hamilton limped home in 1st while a 10 second penalty for causing the incident left Rosberg in 4th. This would also be a crucial race for Manor F1 and Pascal Wehrlein as the German would finish in 10th and give the team a valuable point.
Hamilton would win his home race at the British GP and also win at his most successful track at the Hungarian GP. By winning the next race in Germany, Hamilton would lead the championship for the first time this season, 19 points ahead of Rosberg.
Technical failures over the course of the season so far would result in a penalty for Hamilton as he entered the Belgian GP. He started near the back and in the race, he fought and finished 3rd with Rosberg winning. Rio Haryanto at Manor was replaced by Esteban Ocon for the rest of the season due to Haryanto’s sponsors falling behind on payments.
Rosberg would win again in Italy and would put in a great drive in Singapore to win and lead again by 8 points.
The Malaysian GP would also be a turning point in the story of the season and a crucial one for Hamilton. Comfortably leading the race, Hamilton’s engine blew with smoke and flames coming out of the back. Rosberg was involved with a collision with Sebastian Vettel at the start and this left Rosberg near the back. He fought back to 3rd but could not stop Daniel Ricciardo winning. This would be the second and last race that Red Bull would win this season. Hamilton’s retirement would mean Rosberg’s gap grew to 23 points.
Rosberg would take his last win in Japan with Hamilton 2nd. For the final push in the championship with 4 races to go, Hamilton would win with Rosberg second in America and in Mexico.
Heading into a wet Brazilian GP, Rosberg’s lead was 12 points. Hamilton would win the disrupted and thrilling GP with Rosberg 2nd. But the drive of the season would come from Verstappen as he went from 13th to 3rd in only a few laps. It was also a great race for Felipe Nasr as he scored his and Sauber’s first points of the season finishing in 9th.
Heading into the final race in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg led by 12 points. Hamilton would have to win and Rosberg to finish outside the top 3 for Hamilton to win. Hamilton led from the start and had Rosberg bearing down on him all race. Hamilton slowed and allowed Verstappen and Vettel to close up and put Rosberg under pressure. The tactic didn’t work and Hamilton came home 1st but it was Rosberg who took the championship. Hamilton was criticised after the race for slowing down while Rosberg celebrated.
Just 5 days after winning in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg announced his retirement which shocked the paddock and fans. He would be one of three drivers retiring along with Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.
The season would be remembered by its key moments: Alonso barrel-rolling in Australia, Rosberg and Hamilton colliding in Spain with Verstappen taking the win and Hamilton’s engine blowout in Malaysia. 2016 was better for F1 than 2015 but with the new regulations coming into play and fresh faces such as Stoffel Vandoorne and Lance Stroll, F1 2017 is likely to be as thrilling and unpredictable!