Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo signed off on the 2016 Formula One Championship with a double points finish for the team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as second place for Nico Rosberg proved enough to seal the world championship title behind race winner Lewis Hamilton.
When the lights went out at the start, Daniel got away slowly and was swiftly passed for third by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Ahead Hamilton took the lead ahead of Rosberg. Further back, Max, starting sixth was in trouble. There was a coming together with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg in Turn One and Max was pitched into a spin. He dropped back to last place but quickly began to fight back, rising to P15 by the end of lap four on his supersoft tyres.
As the first round of pit stops began, triggered by leader Hamilton who took on soft tyres, Max flew up the order and by the time Rosberg made his first stop, for soft tyres, the Dutchman was in P2 behind Hamilton with Rosberg third. Behind the top three Raikkonen held fourth ahead of Daniel, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
On lap 20 Mercedes informed Rosberg that he needed to pass Max to keep his race under control and the German responded. He attacked Max down the inside in Turn 8 and while the Red Bull man resisted, Rosberg had enough momentum to get the job done as they headed for Turn 11.
Max then made his sole pit stop, for soft tyres. That resulted in Mercedes informing Rosberg that they believed Max would run to the end of the race and that to guarantee P2 the Mercedes driver would need to up his pace over the following three laps.
Our 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in numbers:
468 – points for the team in 2016 and second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
1 – win for Daniel this season, in Malaysia.
8 – podium finishes in total for Daniel.
1 – win for Max this season, in Spain.
7 – podium finishes in total for Max.
Rosberg did as requested and despite good pace from Max, the German emerged from his final stop ahead of the Red Bull. Daniel, meanwhile, was working his way through a two-stop race and he successfully managed to undercut Raikkonen in his second pit stop to eventually slot into fourth place behind Max.
The danger at this point, however, was coming from Vettel. As the Mercedes drivers worked through their second stops, Vettel led and as he continued to circle it became clear that his long second stint might afford him the chance to take softer compound tyres in his final stop.
He did just that, bolting on supersofts in his final pit stop. He rejoined in P6 and quickly passed team-mate Raikkonen. He then reeled in Daniel and with the Aussies ageing soft tyres there was little he could do to resist Vettel’s charge.
It was a similar story for Max, who was passed by Vettel in the final handful of laps. Ahead, Hamilton was slowing, desperately trying to drop Rosberg into the clutches of Vettel and Max but despite a late lunge from Vettel on the penultimate tour, Rosberg held firm.
As Hamilton won the race, Rosberg took second to win the title by five points. Vettel took the final podium place, while Max finished fourth ahead of Daniel. Sixth place went to Raikkonen, while Hulkenberg signed off on his time with Force India with seventh place ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. Ninth place went the retiring Felipe Massa and the final point went to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.