Rosberg new World Champion as Hamilton wins at Abu Dhabi

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuitae

Nico Rosberg did what was needed and finished in second place to take his first Formula One World Championship. Lewis Hamilton led the race from start to finish, and back everybody up in the hope of something unexpected, but as that failed to happen, Vettel was third behind the Mercedes, even though at less than half a second.

As the lights went out and the sun slowly disappeared at the horizon, Hamilton and Rosberg got away perfectly, retaining their positions at the front of the pack. Daniel Ricciardo on the other hand did have some trouble to get off the line, and lost third place to Raikkonen before the first corner. Vettel tried to pass through the outside of the corner but had to back out, joining the race in 5th.

Max Verstappen also lost a position to Hulkenberg, and then on the exit of turn 1 ran into the Force India, making him spin his car. The Dutchman had no damage on his car, but obviously only got moving again when everybody else was past.

Further behind, everything was reasonably straightforward, except for Magnussen who seemed to have damaged his front wing, requiring him to pit at the end of the first lap. He did have a lousy start and fell back to last before turn 1 as well. It didn't matter all that much anyway, as the team told him to retire the car on lap 6.

By lap 6, Rosberg was still glued onto the rear of Hamilton. Raikkonen followed a second further behind with Ricciardo close as well. Vettel followed 2 second further down the road. Verstappen meanwhile had moved up into 12th.

At the end of lap 7, Hamilton and Raikkonen were the first to pit, both fitting the yellow soft tyres. Hamilton rejoined the track after losing a tiny bit of time in the pits to prevent an unsafe release and ended up in 9th, just ahead of Verstappen, who by then had moved into 10th.

One lap later, Rosberg and Vettel changed to softs as well, rejoining the track behind Verstappen but ahead of Raikkonen. At the same time, Daniel Ricciardo recorded the fastest lap so far, thanks to completing his first stint on super softs, rather than ultra soft.

On lap 9, Ricciardo pitted for softs as well, and immediately challenged Raikkonen for 4th. He failed to get past and had to be wary of Vettel who was closely behind as well.

Verstappen on the other hand was quite happy with the performace of his super softs, and so was his team. Interstingly, that did not see Hamilton pull away, with the latter complaining about sliding around on the track.

Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas retired from the race after a battle his team mate and Kvyat retired as well, parking his car on the back straight. He Russian was handed a bike and cycled back to the pits even though a motorcycle arrived to give him a lift moments later.

Jenson Button also retired as his right front suspension broke while running on a kerb. It was an extremely unfortunate end to his career. His World Championship title in 2009 was obviously the highlight for him.

On lap 20, after the team asked him to put more pressure on Verstappen, Rosberg eventually got past the Red Bull at a time when Hamilton almost had a 5 second advantage.

2 laps later, Verstappen pitted for softs while Rosberg recorded the fastest lap. The team clarified to the German that these laps would be critical for him as they believed Verstappen was going to the end. Verstappen rejoined behind Hulkenberg and Perez, in 7th.

Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Vettel were still closely matched as well. The Red Bull driver had briefly gone past Raikkonen on lap 19, but his late braking at the end of the back straight saw the Finn fly past again while accelerating out of the corner. Vettel thus far limited himself to following and seemed unwilling or unable to attempt a pass.

Being stuck there, Ricciardo pitted on lap 25 - not even halfway through the race - to fit another set of softs. Ferrari tried to cover the stop and pitted Raikkonen on the next lap, but saw the Finn return to the track behind the Australian Red Bull driver.

At Force India, both cars were pitted on lap 26 and 27, moving Verstappen up in 4th, followed at 3 seconds by Ricciardo and Raikkonen another 2 second further down.

At the very front, Hamilton pitted on lap 28, at a time when he had little more than 3 tenths of an advantage on his team mate. Rosberg pitted one lap later and rejoined in third, a few seconds ahead of the Red Bull duo and closer to Hamilton than he had been since the start of the race. Vettel meanwhile happily inherited the lead.

On lap 38, Vettel pitted and changed to a new set of super soft. There's wasn't much to choose from for Ferrari anyway, as the German had no soft tyre sets left. Vettel immediately went fastest on his next full lap and passed Raikkonen another lap later and started to close in on the Red Bulls.

By lap 48, with 7 left to go, Hamilton had Rosberg behind him at less than a second. Verstappen was third at 2.7s and Vettel fourth at 4s. Moments later, Mercedes confirmed to Rosberg that Hamilton is indeed backing him up. Two laps later, when the gap from first to fourth had decreased to 3 seconds, Hamilton was told to pick up the pace.

On lap 50, Vettel passed Verstappen for third and had a few sightings on Rosberg in the final few laps, but eventually failed to make a real passing attempt, leaving Rosberg in second and the 2017 World Champion.

Hamilton certainly did what he could, but clearly his championship was lost at other venues.

Results

Pos.No.DriverCarLapsTimePts
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG551:38:04.01325
26Nico RosbergMercedes AMG55+0.439s18
35Sebastian VettelFerrari55+0.843s15
433Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer55+1.685s12
53Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer55+5.315s10
67Kimi RäikkönenFerrari55+18.816s8
727Nico HulkenbergForce India Mercedes55+50.114s6
811Sergio PerezForce India Mercedes55+58.776s4
919Felipe MassaWilliams Mercedes55+59.436s2
1014Fernando AlonsoMcLaren Honda55+59.896s1
118Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari55+76.777s0
1221Esteban GutierrezHaas Ferrari55+95.113s0
1331Esteban OconMRT Mercedes54+1 lap0
1494Pascal WehrleinMRT Mercedes54+1 lap0
159Marcus EricssonSauber Ferrari54+1 lap0
1612Felipe NasrSauber Ferrari54+1 lap0
1730Jolyon PalmerRenault54+1 lap0
NC55Carlos SainzToro Rosso Ferrari41DNF0
NC26Daniil KvyatToro Rosso Ferrari14DNF0
NC22Jenson ButtonMcLaren Honda12DNF0
NC77Valtteri BottasWilliams Mercedes6DNF0
NC20Kevin MagnussenRenault5DNF0