As Nico Rosberg blitzed over the the finish line, so did he pull the curtain across the 2015 Formula One season. The race result was in itself a thumbnail of a year consistently celebrated by the Silver Arrows, with a Ferrari in the mix here and there. Rosberg managed to convert his pole into a hatrick of wins – a first for the German driver. Slightly out of character, Lewis Hamilton finished behind his teammate. Nico has certainly blown out the candles on Lewis’s championship cake, and as for the rest of the field, the usual processions followed after the five crimson lights went out to send the drivers racing.
Rosberg started from pole for the sixth consecutive time, managing to convert the last three into wins. His win in Abu Dhabi was arguably the most convincing, finishing nearly nine seconds in front of an off-the-pace Hamilton. Lewis was prepared to take a gamble and bring the car home on a used set of primes, but after ping ponging radio messages between driver and pit wall, Lewis accepted his fate and the teams’ decision to abandon a gamble as well as a climatic finish, to rather pit for fresh primes and complete the 55 laps in a comfortable second place. Hamilton claimed he had been struggling with the car all weekend, adding and removing components, but still could not find the right balance.
Left to enjoy the final step of the podium and the accompanying silverware and rose water, Kimi Raikkonen had a steady race, looking confident in the car through out the evening. Even though a sticky front right tyre cost the Finn four seconds in a pit stop during the latter half, it didn’t prove enough to aid Vettel’s attempt at sealing a fourteenth podium for the year. Sebastian’s strategy was bold initially, hoping for a two-stop race, but the Scuderia had to accommodate for the soft and super-soft tyre’s life span, roughly thirty and fifteen laps respectively.
Sergio Perez has experienced something of a Mexican renaissance in his second season at Force India. Claiming he has never driven better, the twenty-five year old finished over a minute behind this race’s victor, but claimed a convincing fifth place. Trailing down the road at P7 was a beaten Nico Hulkenberg. Dr. Perez, the acclaimed tyre doctor groomed his sets for the duration of the grand prix, and his expertise in such a skill has been a vital weapon in his racing arsenal.
The first of the Red Bulls to cross the line in sixth position was also the first of the Daniels. Ricciardo had been jostling with the Force India pair for portions of the race, but his efforts were unwholesome as he lost out on winning the teammate battle. The second Daniel, or rather Daniil, secured the last of the points, claiming just a single digit for the race and a further three over his Australian counterpart in the driver’s championship. Although not higher in the points, Kvyat showed flare and tenacity throughout the race, thus reasserting his worth to the Austrian outfit.
Williams had a weekend to forget. The span of round nineteen was typified by low amounts of grip and an unstable car around corners. Massa’s race was relatively uneventful and received little interruption from other drivers to finish in eighth. However, Valterri Bottas could not enjoy the simple pleasures of coasting to a Grand Prix finish. After being released early from his pitbox, the Finn collected the rear end of Jenson’s Button’s McLaren. His front wing was destroyed, and left him to limp a full 5.5km around the track, until having to pit again for a new wing. To add further frustration, Bottas was awarded a five second time penalty for the team’s error, and finished thirteenth.
In his last race for the Enstone outfit, Lotus’s Romain Grosjean will feel relief to be cutting ties with the forever doubtful black and gold team. The Haas driver for 2016 quietly took ninth place. His hot blooded latin teammate Crashtor Pastor Maldonado came to lock horns with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso on lap one, and later had to retire from the race. In an interview with the BBC, the Venezuelan said this is the way racing goes and crashes should be expected. He also remarked that he was happy not to be the cause of the collision. Should the facts have been reversed, he elaborated he would have become the focal point of the media’s attention for yet another instance of the season.
A worthy note goes to Max Verstappen. Turning overtaking into the art of finesse once again, the flying Dutchman has proved his worth as a young driver and has become a great asset to Formula One’s splash pool of talent. His calculated moves were executed with aggression and style, of which have been the highlights of his debut season. Perhaps next year, with more knowledge and greater experience, Max will achieve newer and greater heights. For this race, Toro Rosso used an aggressive three stop strategy to take advantage of Max’s wheel to wheel racing abilities. Though Max crossed the finish line in twelfth position, the Stewards awarded him time penalties for ignoring blue flags (20 second penalty, ouch!), and leaving the track to gain an advantage while passing Button for an additional 5 seconds (double ouch!). The added time moved him down four positions to a finishing position of sixteenth. In addition, he earned 3 penalty points, for a new total of eight points. His fellow rookie team-mate crossed the line in eleventh position using a less radical two stop strategy.
It is always symbolic to bring a close to a season in Abu Dhabi. Twenty F1 drivers race in twilight and into the night, gradually turning out the metaphorical lights on the 2015 season. The Mercedes performance was no desert mirage, but was rather a reflection of perfection witnessed by all for the last thirty-eight races. As for next season, who knows? Many questions are still unanswered; will Nico Rosberg once again become a formidable threat to Lewis Hamilton, or will Ferrari be back on all four legs to pose the threat? Will Haas really be in the midfield mix? Will Lotus and Renault find an amicable solution to their indecisive negotiations? and what on earth is Red Bull doing? All we can do is speculate.