Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton did all he could to defend his title in Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – including backing his team mate into the pack – but in the end victory was not enough, as Nico Rosberg drove superbly to take second place and with it his first world championship crown.
With Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finishing third, less than a second covered the top three at the chequered flag as Hamilton ignored team instructions to up his pace in the closing laps.
Max Verstappen was a superb fourth for Red Bull, having spun his way to last on lap one after contact with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. Daniel Ricciardo followed his team mate home, with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen taking sixth ahead of Hulkenberg. Force India’s Sergio Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.
Hamilton led away from pole, but after his first pit stop Rosberg spent much of the opening part of the race bottled up in third behind the one-stopping Verstappen. However, an aggressive pass on lap 22 crucially got him ahead of the Dutchman, after he which he set several fastest laps in succession.
Toro Rosso’s miserable weekend continued. First Daniil Kvyat was forced to stop his car by the side of the track, with the Russian then borrowing a bicycle to make his way back to the paddock. Then Carlos Sainz pulled off with gearbox issues, shortly after being hit from behind by Palmer, who got a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.
Jenson Button’s final Grand Prix ended in sad fashion with a right-front suspension failure on his McLaren after a heavy contact with the kerbs on lap 12, while Renault’s Kevin Magnussen and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas were early retirements with, respectively, steering rack damage and rear suspension problems.