It is going to be a long cold winter for Nico Rosberg while the generations collided in Abu Dhabi…
Rosberg’s Long Winter
Nico Rosberg revelled in the balmy conditions in Abu Dhabi to claim his third straight win – and defeat team-mate Lewis Hamilton for a third straight time.
But winter in the desert, where the temperature hovers around 27C, is a far cry from the cold, wet winter in Europe.
Despite his end-of-season surge, Rosberg faces a long winter to reflect on the 2014 and 2015 seasons, when he failed to beat Hamilton when it really matters.
Hamilton has admitted that he has struggled to come to grips with the Mercedes since Singapore, but despite his slump and the German’s fine form, Rosberg usually comes off second best in wheel-to-wheel combat against his team-mate.
The edge is Hamilton’s who, by all accounts, is a great driver in a great car. Rosberg, by comparison, still has to prove that he is more than just a good driver in a very good car.
He’ll have an opportunity to do that in a few months’ time when F1 decamps in Melbourne at the end of the Australian summer.
What About the Red Cars?
Kimi Raikkonen’s third place behind the Mercedes duo at Yas Marina was largely representative of where Ferrari is in comparison to the Silver Arrows.
If the Scuderia can find a few extra tenths of a second, and if Raikkonen’s Abu Dhabi resurgence continues into the New Year, Rosberg may find that even if he beats Hamilton in 2016, he may not be in the mix for the title.
At present such talk is, of course, mostly conjecture. However, Mercedes’ recent request for clarifications on the rules, and by extension its concern about Ferrari’s progress in relation to its tie-up with Haas, highlights the German manufacturer’s concern about the men in red.
If Merc needed any other warnings about Ferrari’s pace, Sebastian Vettel fine fourth-place finish from 15th on the grid offers it.
But the Drive of the Day Goes to….
Vettel would be a worthy recipient of the award for best performance of the race. Another nominee would be Force India’s Sergio Perez, who has exceeded expectations since the team launched its B-Spec car.
Perez’s poor season at McLaren is well documented in the paddock but his performance against Nico Hulkenberg this season have well and truly ruined the German’s hopes of a drive at a team like McLaren.
A McLaren. Really? What Would Alonso Say?
Hulkenberg would be a fool to trade Force India for McLaren on the basis of the results at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Woking-based outfit and its power-unit supplier Honda have no choice but to improve in 2016 as 2015 could not have been much worse.
This was epitimosed by Fernando Alonso’s request to retire early from the Abu Dhabi race. Rumours abound over his future and speculation is rife that he may not be at the wheel of an F1 car next year.
If that is the case, would he come back in 2017? Forget Hulkenberg’s reputation as a nearly man…F1 pundits are already asking if Alonso is one of the great unfulfilled talents of this generation (or perhaps the greatest unfulfilled talent of all time?).
The Spaniard not won a title since 2006 and has not won a race since 2013. It’s all a rather depressing and inglorious situation for a two-time champion to find himself in during what should be his peak years in the sport.
While Alonso was throwing in the towel, team-mate Jenson Button engaged in a memorable tussle with Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen.
The youngster was hit with an unfortunate penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, but as is often the case in F1 it seemed to be a case of the stewards over-regulating the type of contest that fans are desperate to see more of.
Williams: Still an Enigma
An eighth place and a thirteenth are a poor reward for Williams given their budget, progress in recent seasons, and their Mercedes power units.
While not truly representative of the season in which they finished third in the Constructors Championship, it was yet another underwhelming showing from the men from Grove.
Valterri Bottas’s early release from his box and contact with Button in the pits underscore some of the challenges that Williams must be overcome to push the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari in 2016.
The Final Conclusion of the Year
UAE journalists are disappointed that car 44’s driver Hamilton couldn’t win his 44th career race just days before the UAE’s 44th anniversary.
They can have a tax-free salary, but they can’t have the headline they wanted…
Richard F Rose