Abu Dhabi: With the season poised to end in a grand finale at the Desert destination, Autotrack was present to witness history as Mercedes AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg just managed to not only thwart the tough tactics of teammate Lewis Hamilton but also got a well-deserved second place with some astute, error-less driving which was enough for him to take his maiden World Driver’s Championship despite Hamilton winning here in the last GP of the season.
In full-blown donuts, he soaked in smoke and joy, and as it turned out a week later, it was his last F1 race, as the German champion decided to quit the sport. Winning the championship was his life-time goal and that achieved, he retired. The last two years, despite Mercedes’ domination Rosberg could not win the championship as his teammate Hamilton beat him on both occasions and it was Formula None for the German. Now it’s Formula Won as the German was on the top of the world.
He also became the first father-son duo to have both won the F1 Drivers’ Championship. The year was completely dominated by the German manufacturer who comfortably won the Constructors’ championship. The two drivers won 19 of the 21 races held in 2016 between them.
The other big news for India is the 4th place in the Constructor’s Championship for Sahara Force India. The driver duo of German Nico Hulkenberg and Mexican Sergio Perez performed consistently and upped the ante in the second half after the upgrades in Barcelona to seal the important 4th place. Perez finished 7th scoring 101 points while Hulkenberg was 9th with 72 points in his last season with Force India. Perez got two third places at Monaco and Baku but Hulkenberg was unlucky to miss podium finishes, especially at Spa, Belgium, and his points do not justify his vast contribution to the team. Frenchman Esteban Ocon moves to Force India from Manor for 2017 to replace Hulkenberg.
“The team’s performance is worth 10 times the achievement as we operate with a fraction of the budgets that the top-three teams have at their disposal,’’ said Vijay Mallya, the team Principal, in a chat with Autotrack a couple of seasons back when the team finished fifth. This year he could not attend the races except the one near the team’s base in Silverstone due to his travel restrictions. “His vision and his ability to make the resources available to the team was the reason for this success. The entire team is motivated and worked hard and its a true team achievement and we will continue to fight and lead the midfield,’’ told deputy team boss Robert `Bob’ Fernley to this magazine. Three cheers to the team as it keeps the Indian flag flying at F1.
With new regulations, the season begins in Australia on March 26, 2017.
Text: David Bodapati, Photos: Srinivasa Krishnan
Note: This story first appeared in Autotrack magazine in the Jan-Feb 2017 issue.