Abu Dhabi – That’s a wrap

AS far as thrillers go the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix isn’t quite going to make the list of most memorable races. Though visually spectacular the Yas Marina circuit has brought the 2015 season to a close in fairly mundane manner but still provided several talking points.

In only the second time in its seven-year history the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was won from pole position. First place on the starting grid belonged to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg which he easily translated into the race lead as the sun began to set over the Yas Marina circuit. On the track it didn’t turn out to be a wheel-to-wheel battle between Rosberg and teammate Hamilton but rather a tactical fight through pit stop strategy.

In the first round of pitstops Hamilton followed his race leading teammate into the pitlane only a lap later, effectively mirroring his strategy. However, with the constructor’s and driver’s title in the bag the Mercedes team allowed its drivers some leeway in strategy calls and racing up to the chequered flag. Lewis Hamilton took advantage of the rare freedom to extend his second stint on the yellow side-walled soft tyres. At one point Hamilton even considered running a one stop strategy and going to the end on his tyres. This strategy was quickly dismissed as impossible by his race engineer and Hamilton pitted to fit a set of the soft Pirelli tyres.

This strategy left Hamilton nearly twelve seconds behind race leader Rosberg. Although the three time champion was able to run with the quicker, and fresher, tyres in the closing stint of the race he was only able to halve the pace to the leading car. The race concluded with Rosberg leading Hamilton home with a comfortable gap of just over eight seconds. This latest one-two finish of Rosberg and Hamilton makes it the twelfth of the year for Mercedes.

Not too far behind the Mercedes pair Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen delivered a strong drive to finish third. The Finn turned a good pace but never enough to challenge for victory. While some will make a note that he finished the season in fourth place on the driver’s standings, Raikkonen couldn’t care less of his ultimate position in the championship unless it’s position number one. Raikkonen, by his own admission, has labelled his season as distinctly “average.”

After a strategic error in qualifying Sebastian Vettel was forced to start in fifteenth. The German was able to recover to take fourth place for Ferrari. Sergio Perez, who started on the second row of the grid in fourth, brought his Force India home in fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the other Force India while Felipe Massa struggled to an eighth place finish for the Williams team. In his final race with Lotus before heading off the American Haas team was Romain Grosjean who made the best of his supersoft tyres in the closing stages. Daniil Kvyat secured tenth and the final point on offer for the Red Bull Racing team.

It wasn’t a race blighted by too many incidents; however Fernando Alonso incurred a drive-through penalty for hitting the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado into turn one as the race got underway. In the pitlane Valtteri Bottas clipped the back of Jenson Button’s McLaren after an unsafe release by the Williams pitcrew. It resulted in a damaged front-wing for Bottas and five second penalty.

For Nico Rosberg the season couldn’t have ended any better with six pole positions and a hat trick of victories. It begs the question as to where this prodigious form has been the entire season. Is it as a result of a release of pressure or has Rosberg at long last found something that Hamilton has no answer for?

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