The 2016 Formula 1 season is in the books. Despite the fact that it was dominated by 1 team, Mercedes, the season was filled with drama. The season finale at Abu Dhabi illustrated this perfectly. You had Mercedes finishing 1 – 2, you had the rise of Max Verstappen who fought back from an early set back to finish in an impressive 4th place. Lewis Hamilton cruised to a fairly easy win while his teammate Nico Rosberg finished 2nd. 2nd place was more than enough to secure Nico his 1st world title. Like the rest of the season, there was more going on than the predictable results would lead you to believe.
During the late stages of the race, it became obvious that if Nico didn’t slow down somehow, Lewis would not win the championship. The only chance Lewis had was to purposely slow down, the resulting slowed pace would bring Nico back and into the clutches of Verstappen and a charging Sebastian Vettel.
Despite Nico complaining over the radio to the team, and despite the pits ordering Lewis to speed up, he did not. Telling his team over the radio, “I’m actually in the lead right now and quite comfortable.” Lewis was clearly frustrated with the team, clearly believing he has every right to the championship as Nico did. He would continue, “Right now I’m losing the world championship.” After the race Lewis defended his actions, “I don’t think I did anything dangerous, I don’t think I did anything unfair. We were fighting for the championship, I was in the lead so I control the pace. That is the rules.” To Rosberg’s credit, he said he understood Hamilton’s actions. This is for the world title after all.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was caught in the middle and he said he could see both points of view. At the end of the day he understood Lewis’s actions but was concerned with his blatant disregard for the team’s orders. “This was where we decided to intervene, he decided to ignore it. There’s just one thing: does this set a precedent for the future? This is what we have to assess, but fundamentally we have to cheer up. Nineteen wins and a new world champion, great spirit within the team.”
And what would be a 2016 grand prix without a complaining Sebastian Vettel post race interview. I have nothing but respect for Vettel, he is a phenomenal driver, but his whining this season was a bit much. Vettel attacked Lewis’s actions calling them, “It was a difficult situation in the end with Lewis playing some dirty tricks.”
So where do you stand? I take the stance that Lewis broke no rules. He was doing absolutely everything in his power to win a world championship. That’s what you want in a driver. You want the guy who isn’t going to give up, who is going to fight for every position, every last point. This is what makes the greats so great; beyond just good. Sure you want to a driver to follow the teams instruction at all times, but Rosberg didn’t need to finish 2nd. He could have let Vettel go, finished third, and still won his world championship.
What does all this mean for next season? We shall see. Combined with Verstappen’s rise, the rivalry between the Mercedes drivers is the best thing F1 has going right now. If Mercedes is going to dominate, it is good for the sport that their drivers not exactly get along.
That brings me to my entirely too early 2017 Formula 1 predictions.
Max Verstappen will compete for the championship. Barring the unforeseen, Verstappen is the next big superstar in F1. I believe next season he is going to continue his rise. Plus, next season introduces new tire and aerodynamic regulations. Red Bull does aero better than any other team on the grid. Getting more aero grip into the cars, in addition to more power from the Renault power unit, and I think they will close the gap to Mercedes. I’m not saying he will definitely win but give max a year to mature, a year to learn and a better car, I think he’ll give Mercedes a bigger fight then they’re used to.
Nico Rosberg will suffer from a post championship hangover. Yes, the champagne hasn’t dried on his 2016 title celebration glass, but I’m here to tell you that Nico will not repeat as world champion, in my honest opinion. This season took a huge toll on Nico. I think winning the championship will take that extra edge off him. Not saying he isn’t going to do everything he can to repeat I just think next year he will lack that little extra that won him the title this season.
Time will tell. Do you think Lewis was in the right? Did Nico deserve the title? Will 2017 be better? Let’s hear it in the comments.