Rosberg wins first F1 title in Abu Dhabi
Beats Mercedes teammate Hamilton
Teen Verstappen impresses in 2016
After the longest season in Formula One’s history, Nico Rosberg was crowned world champion Sunday, beating his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the title at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi.
And as the cars roll into the garage for the winter, CNN’s Amanda Davies draws her five conclusions from a pulsating 2016 – on and off the track.
Teammates in Formula One can have a very different meaning to other sports. Especially when it’s the two of you battling for a world title.
And after two years of Hamilton winning the world championship, it’s the turn of the other side of the garage.
It’s Rosberg celebrating becoming the 33rd Formula One world champion. He claimed the title in Abu Dhabi, in a race that summed up his season; he did what he needed to do, when he needed to do it.
Rosberg is a very different driver and a different person to his childhood friend turned current rival Hamilton. But if we were all the same, wouldn’t life be boring? F1 is surely no different.
Plenty of people have been in touch with me on Twitter and Instagram saying Nico doesn’t deserve it – Lewis was the worthy champion.
It’s hard to argue with the fact that Lewis is the more naturally gifted driver – both spectacular and serene, demonstrated by his win at the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo.
His 10 race wins in 2016 is one more than Rosberg managed, a number which in any other campaign would have given him the title. And Hamilton also suffered reliability and engine issues that didn’t impact his teammate.
Read: Final Formula One standings
On the flip side, it’s hard to begrudge Rosberg this success after years of finishing second best to Hamilton and still coming back for more. In my book, that deserves credit.
He has been dogged, determined and diligent. While Rosberg might not have stunned and made us go “ooh” and “aah,” he has battled and fought. His approach in a nutshell, he asked for permission from his team to perform celebratory donuts after the race.
We’ve known for a little while that Max Verstappen, despite his age, is likely to be a big deal. In Barcelona in May, we got a taste of it.
Having been promoted into Red Bull’s driver line-up mid season, he became the youngest ever winner of a grand prix. But it was his performance in the wet at the Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo that really put people in a spin.
Rudyard Kipling got it right with the opening line to his famous poem If; “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …” Verstappen did that and then some, going from 16th place with 16 laps to go, to a place on the podium.
Read: Five moments from The Circuit 2016
This was a drive that had it all. The way he handled the car; his cool “heartbeat went a bit high there” comment over the radio after his fantastic save on the start-finish straight; the confidence and skilled overtaking that saw him move through the field.
It’s a performance that will be talked about for years to come. His recovery from a spin in Abu Dhabi and the way he powered back up through the field, confirmed it wasn’t just a one off. Surely it won’t be long before the 19-year-old turns the tenacious performances into world titles?
Farewell old friends
While F1 is saying hello to a new world champion, it’s also bidding farewell to some old friends.
Daniel Ricciardo told me that he’s going to need to find some new buddies in the paddock next season and it’s a similar feeling for a lot of F1 fans.
Two of the sports most popular and long-serving drivers hang up their helmets and head into retirement.
Jenson Button and Felipe Massa have over 550 race starts between them. The pit lane’s guard of honor for Massa in Sao Paulo is just a small indication of what the Brazilian has meant to the sport.
A mechanical failure on Sunday wasn’t the way 2009 world champion Button deserved to bow out. But their departure gives chance to some new blood. Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne finally gets his shot at McLaren, while 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll replaces Massa at Williams.
New faces, new figureheads
New owners of F1 are something we’ve been talking about for a long time. If I had a dollar for every time our business desk has asked about a buyout or takeover of CVC, the company which owns the sport, I’d be as rich as Bernie Ecclestone – or nearly.
But in September, we finally received the news that US firm Liberty Media were the new owners – and now the questions aren’t when or who, but what next.
Everybody in F1 has their opinion about what needs to be done. Bobby Epstein, owner of the US Grand Prix Circuit in Austin, called for more of a year-round marketing strategy. And there’s no doubt a number of teams have been looking at the success and growth of Formula E.
And then of course there’s Bernie. There’s only one Bernie Ecclestone. Of that there is no doubt. He wouldn’t want it any other way.
But in the future it’s difficult to see just one person doing his job. F1 is a sport that has grown massively under his leadership but there’s a whole lot more that can – needs to be – done. A whole lot more than can be covered in one brief article. Let’s save that for next season.
But in 2017 we start again …
What we do know is the cars will look different. The front wing will change and so too the tire width. Cars will be harder to drive and also faster, by about five or six seconds.
And as is always the case with major regulation changes, one team will get it right and the rest will be playing catch up.
What changes would you like to see in F1? Have your say on our Facebook page
Visit cnn.com/motorsport for more F1 news and videos
In many ways we’re heading into the unknown. But we do know that the rest will be doing everything they can to end the Mercedes monopoly.