Nico Rosberg is the 2016 Formula 1 World Champion. It doesn’t sound right, does it? It all came down to the last race in Abu Dhabi where, Hamilton had to win the race with his team-mate off the podium to win the title. Hamilton tried his best by backing up the pack (and apparently is under investigation by Mercedes and might either face a ban for the 2017 season or the sack for ignoring team orders) but it wasn’t enough. Rosberg finished in 2nd place to take his maiden World Championship. A word of warning, this post will focus on Mercedes a lot. I do talk about the other teams towards the end.
I know it’s all done and dusted now but Hamilton should have four titles to his name. His car had horrible reliability this season while Rosberg seemed to have a bulletproof W07. Rosberg finished five points ahead of Hamilton. There are three races I want to talk about in this post which, ultimately, cost Hamilton a fourth Championship. These are three races that were out of Hamilton’s hands, the numerous bad starts were down to him unfortunately.
The first race is the European Grand Prix where Hamilton’s engine was in the wrong setting which cost him a lot of time and was essentially down on power. Fixing the problem via radio communication between the driver and pit-wall had been banned however and as a result, Hamilton couldn’t do anything but drive the car. Hamilton’s weekend didn’t quite go to plan before that as he qualified in 10th after hitting a barrier in Q3. In the race, he made up some positions until he was up to 4th but found himself behind a very fast Force India with Perez at the wheel. With 10 laps to go, Hamilton made a setting change (something his engineer advised him not to do) which did solve the problem but it was too late. 56 seconds up the road, his team-mate Rosberg took the chequered flag with Vettel and Perez taking the remaining podium places. Hamilton finished the race in 5th. It’s very tough to say where Hamilton would’ve finished if he didn’t have any issues but due to the fact that it’s a street circuit and it’s very difficult to overtake, I’m confident he lost out on 2nd or 3rd place. Rosberg looked comfortable during the weekend and I don’t think Hamilton could’ve challenged him, especially in the same car. Points lost during this Grand Prix: 5-8.
The next was Belgium where Hamilton took multiple penalties thanks to horrible engine reliability early on in the season and only set one time in qualifying (you have to set a time in qualifying which has to be within 107% of the fastest time to be allowed to race) and started at the back of the grid. Thanks to the nature of the circuit Hamilton somehow managed to finish in 3rd with Rosberg leading every lap to win the race. Without the penalties Hamilton would’ve qualified on the front-row and would’ve finished at least 2nd. Points lost during this Grand Prix: 3-10. Points lost so far: 8-18.
Finally, the big one. Malaysia. Hamilton looked sublime during the race and it looked like his car was on rails. However with 16 laps to go, Hamilton’s car caught fire and he was out of the race putting a massive dent in his title hopes. Rosberg could only manage to finish in 3rd as Ricciardo capitalised on Hamilton’s failure to win the race (and in Ricciardo’s case, payback for what happened at the Monaco Grand Prix) with Verstappen finishing in 2nd. Points lost during this Grand Prix: 25. Points lost so far: 33-43.
Hamilton lost between 33-43 points this season and without such issues would’ve dominated the Championship. Some people might say he still dominated, he managed to win 10 out of the 21 races and towards the end of the season, was driving faultlessly. However, we can’t take away the fact that Rosberg was very consistent this season and at the end of the day, he still had to go out there and do the job. However, he was helped enormously with Hamilton’s unreliability. It’ll hurt inside for a while but he’ll be back in 2017 with even more determination to win his fourth World Championship. Rosberg didn’t win the title, Hamilton lost the title.
Now, the other teams. At the start of the season, Ferrari were the second best team. It looked like they had a good car with great straight-line speed and their chassis looked solid. They had 10 podium finishes but the second half of the season was poor. Red Bull were the third best team at the start of the season but as time progressed they got stronger and stronger and managed to overtake Ferrari in the Constructors’ Standings towards the latter part of the season. A lot of people are tipping Red Bull next year. There are a lot of rule changes that effectively mean every team has to build their cars from scratch. Aerodynamics will play a big part in 2017 and we all know one person at Red Bull who is a genius at that.
Force India finished fourth in the Constructors’ and for a team that has a relatively small budget compared to Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren, it’s very impressive. They make the most of what they have and are very resourceful. They had two brilliant drivers (Nico Hülkenberg will be moving to Renault next season with Esteban Ocan taking his place) and they’re hoping to fight for third place in the Constructors’ next year which, in my opinion, is a very difficult ask. Williams finished behind them and I have to say I wasn’t impressed with them this season. They, like Force India, run a Mercedes engine and have a similar budget but at the start of the season were definitely hoping for more. Williams didn’t manage to get on the podium this season. It just seemed that any development parts they brought to races didn’t help them in anyway.
McLaren finished sixth in the Constructors’ and had a better season than they did last year, that’s for sure. But they still unperformed. Honda must sort out the energy kinetics as it’s the power unit that’s hindering them, a lot. Verstappen said that Red Bull were 50BHP down on what Mercedes were producing towards the end of the season, just think what McLaren have to make up. A shoutout to Haas F1, in their debut season they racked up 29 points finishing eighth in the Constructors’ ahead of Renault, Sauber and Manor. The prize money will help them enormously for 2017.
Next season should bring the pack closer together (where have we heard that before?) or at least bring the top three teams closer together. It all depends on how testing goes of course but I still think Mercedes will be the team to beat with Red Bull close behind. It’ll be interesting to see what McLaren can do as their chassis is very good, some people say only Red Bull and Mercedes have a better chassis although I don’t agree with that. I think Ferrari and Force India have a better chassis than McLaren. Again, this is irrelevant now as the rule changes put everyone on a level playing field. The big teams can manage two projects at once (improving the 2016 car while working on the 2017 car) while smaller teams like Haas, Renault, Sauber and Manor can only focus on one project and so they probably stopped developing the 2016 car very early on in the season knowing that 2017 will be a mammoth task but at the same time a big opportunity.
As much as it hurts right now that Hamilton lost out, all I want is for Formula 1 to return. The first test takes place from the 27th of February to the 2nd of March and the second test takes place from the 7th-10th of March, both at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.