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Formula One

2016 F1 Year in Review: Nico Rosberg

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After 11 years of racing, seven years with Mercedes and 23 wins, Nico Rosberg claimed the iconic Formula One World Championship trophy in his 206th and final race start.

 

Driver Name: Nico Rosberg

Team Name: Mercedes AMG Petronas

Points: 385 (1st)

Car No.: 6

Total Races: 21

Victories: 9

Podiums: 16

Top-Fives: 19

Top-10s: 20

Average Start: 1.9

Average Finish: 3.1

DNFs: 1
Mercedes continued where they were in 2015, with a dominant car at the front of the grid that would claim most pole positions and victories.

Nico Rosberg also did this after ending the 2015 season with wins in Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi and winning the first four races of the season in Australia, Bahrain, China, and Russia.

This was arguably the first bit of luck he had. Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel could have won in Australia with a smarter pit stop strategy, while Lewis Hamilton spun at the first turn in Bahrain and started from the back in China and 10th in Russia. He ended April with a 43-point lead, with 100 points compared to Hamilton’s 57. He still had to win, and he did that comfortably.

Then came Spain. He ended the race at the third turn after the now-infamous collision with Hamilton. It was a racing incident where both sides could be criticized for their actions. Rosberg led up to the third turn by Hamilton aggressively tried to pass going into the third turn. As he moved slightly to the right, Hamilton took to the grass where he lost control and spun into Rosberg’s car with both being left in the gravel.

On another day, a move over to the side of the track or holding off for a few corners could have changed the outcome.

Monaco and Canada brought more criticism to Rosberg. The German was told to move over for Hamilton before the English driver won the race and almost lapped his teammate in the wet-dry race at the famous circuit. The next race saw him be pushed wide at turn one and be in the middle of the points for most of the event.

Although Hamilton crashed in qualifying and started in 10th, Rosberg dominated the European Grand Prix in Baku and managed to be the only Mercedes driver to independently solve a car problem, while Hamilton came heated over team radio.

July was a harder month for the German. Hamilton won all four races during the month in Austria, Britain, Hungary and Germany, all without some controversy. Austria saw the two fight for the lead on the final lap, and Rosberg suffer front wing damage after fighting hard to keep the position, pushing him down to fourth in the final classification.

Rosberg was given a time penalty in Britain after team radio infringements when he asked for advice over gearbox issues, while the German race saw Rosberg come under scrutiny for again holding his ground and forcing Max Verstappen off the track at the Hockenheim hairpin.

After a four-week break throughout August, the German came back fired up to win the next three rounds in Belgium, Italy, and Singapore, although Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was unlucky not to catch Rosberg on the last lap of the final race of those three.

The next race in Malaysia was the race that helped him to the title. After spinning on the opening lap with contact from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Rosberg fell down the order with teammate Hamilton leading from pole.

Rosberg moved back up to fourth place with Hamilton leading, a result which would have given the Englishman a 13-point swing and the championship lead by five points. This was until a plume of smoke came from Hamilton’s engine on Lap 43, and he retired, leaving Ricciardo and Verstappen to complete a one-two and Rosberg creeping onto the podium in third.

A dominant victory in Japan followed with Hamilton only managing third, extending the German’s already massive lead to 33 points. This was the moment Rosberg said that he first realized that the championship was in his destiny and that his career may be ending.

That is what he did. Hamilton fought back with four straight poles and wins in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi, but he finished right behind him. He had to cut the chicane in Mexico at the start, stay on the road in the rain in Brazil and keep cars behind him in Abu Dhabi after Hamilton slowed up, but he kept consistent to the end.

The next event of his year came as the most inconsistent possible scenario imaginable. The season had finished, and thoughts would turn to whether Hamilton could raise his game and beat Rosberg again or whether Rosberg could double his tally in 2017 if Mercedes were still on top.

It is extremely hard to keep a secret in F1 for the most part; usually, someone finds some details out and joins the dots together on stories. Rosberg managed it and shocked the world just five days after his title win. His career was now over as he confirmed retired at the age of 31 and become the first driver not to fight to retain his title in this century.

After such a crazy year in general where people have been surprised by news and entertainment stories, Rosberg caused many to rub their eyes and wake up reading headlines at the beginning of December.

Highlight of 2016: The highlight of 2016 for him will undoubtedly be doing donuts on Yas Marina Circuit’s main straight after winning the title, speaking to his wife over team radio and crowd surfing with his team. Abu Dhabi is the high point of his career, not just 2016.

Downfall of 2016: Rosberg had a tough summer. He was penalized in Britain for breaching team radio rules when asking about his gearbox, while he was also penalized for being deemed for pushing Max Verstappen off track. As he spent two races off the podium, Lewis Hamilton won four in a row and took the championship lead.

Notes for 2017: Peace. Tranquility. Family. Nico Rosberg has nothing yet announced for 2017 after his retirement, and unless he produces another shock, will be in Monaco looking after his family and planning other future adventures.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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Cameron Paterson

Cameron Paterson has been a watcher of Formula 1 since 2007, a casual television watch evolved to watching and reading anything related to something with wheels and an engine. A fan of writing, it was a no-brainer about what to do to try and get into motorsport, consistently discussing things about this great sport since 2016.