Abu Dhabi: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg swept to a commanding victory ahead of a charging Lewis Hamilton, stealing the limelight from his newly-crowned triple champion team-mate at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
German driver Nico Rosberg celebrates on the podium at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Pic/AFP
Rosberg crossed the line under the floodlights at the Yas Marina Circuit 8.2 seconds clear of Hamilton leading his Mercedes team to a record 12th one-two finish of the season. Kimi Raikkonen finished a distant third for Ferrari, the Finn scoring his third podium finish of the year.
Yesterday's win was the 14th of Rosberg's career and sixth of the season and sees the German end a disappointing year on a high with a hat-trick of victories. It also denied Hamilton a 44th career triumph and the chance to sign off a season he has dominated in style.
'Delicious, thebest ever'
"Delicious, the best ever," Rosberg said on the podium, sipping a magnum of fizzy rose-water instead of the traditional champagne.
"Austin was the low point of my season, since then I've come back a lot stronger. I'm really excited about how the end of the season went. Next year could start tomorrow for me — I don't need a holiday. I'm ecstatic."
Hamilton sealed the championship with three races to spare at last month's US Grand Prix in Austin. But the Briton hasn't won since, with a resurgent Rosberg storming to six-straight pole positions and winning the final three races instead.
"No man, it's been a good year," Hamilton, who has scored ten wins this season, said when asked if he was disappointed with the way his season had ended. "I'm happy, really have to take my hat off to this team."
Starting from pole, Rosberg made a clean getaway, keeping the lead off the line. Hamilton made a slower start but fended off Raikkonen and Sergio Perez, who had started from fourth in the Force India, to keep second.
Rosberg controlled the pace in the opening stint of the race, building a comfortable gap to Hamilton but the Briton found extra speed following the first stops and began to reel Rosberg in. He upped the tempo, slashing his deficit to Rosberg to under two seconds from over six in the space of less than ten laps.
He caused further excitement and nervousness on the Mercedes pitwall when, finding himself in the lead following Rosberg's second stop, he decided to gamble on staying out and nursing his tyres all the way to the end.
After initially arguing with his team, who were calling him in, Hamilton eventually relented. He emerged from the pits on tyres ten laps fresher than Rosberg's but despite using the fresher rubber to mount a late-race charge, he was unable to catch the German.
Behind the top three, Sebastian Vettel followed team-mate Raikkonen home in fourth. The German had started 15th but vaulted up the order by pitting later than his rivals in the early part of the race. Perez took a strong fifth for Force India ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Hulkenberg made it two Force India cars in the points, on the occasion of the team's 150th race, by finishing seventh.
Felipe Massa took eighth in the Williams ahead of Romain Grosjean who finished in the points on his swansong for Lotus, with the Frenchman set to join F1-newcomers Haas next season. Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.