The 2016 season was shaping up to be the battle between the Ferrari and Mercedes but who would be victorious when the season reaches it climax in Abu Dhabi after twenty one races.
Continuing rise of Rosberg
Melbourne hosted the season opener which saw the debut of a new team Haas. The team were expected to be off the pace but come Sunday the sport was in for a surprise. Lewis Hamilton took pole after a knock ou qualifying which was introduced to make the session more interesting but the format was knocked by all the drivers and teams with Red Bull boss Christian Horner said F1 should “apologise to the fans”.
Hamilton was jumped at the start by his team-mate Nico Rosberg but the race was interrupted by a crash between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez. Alonso crashed with Esteban Gutierrez leaving his car shattered in pieces after hitting the back wheel of the Haas car which sent him flying off. While for the other Haas it was a brilliant debut for the team, with Romain Grosjean scoring the team’s first points, describing it as a win for the team.
The stewards decided that neither driver was responsible calling it was a racing incident. The incident left Alonso injured and meant he would not be able to race in Bahrain. But Rosberg was left unfazed and sealed his fourth back to back win setting him up well for the start of the season continuing his run of back to back wins.
Alonso was ruled out from racing in Sahir following the crash in Melbourne meaning Stoffel Vandoorne would make his debut for McLaren. The build up to the weekend was dominated by the axing then reinstatement for one last time of the knock out format.
The session proved more exciting with drivers following the cristisum of the format ran longer in the session. Hamilton looked strong through-out the weekend out pacing Rosberg to take pole ahead of the Ferrari’s and red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Again like in Melbourne Rosberg would lead Hamilton home after the world champion made a bad start. This allowed the Ferrari of Raikkonen to get in between the Mercedes. Hamilton had made contact with the Williams of Valtteri Bottas at the start saying he was in his blind spot.
Meanwhile both Vettel and Jolyon Palmer both did not start after technical problems on the formation lap. Grosjean once again scored points for Haas making the team have the best start for a new team since Brawn GP in 2009 when they took two back-to-back wins on the way to the title.
Vandoorne had a brilliant weekend being ahead of Jenson Button throughout and taking McLaren’s first points of the season.
Rosberg out foxed Hamilton in wet conditions to take pole, partly due to technical issues which harmed him throughout the session. Hamilton had been struggling all weekend he spun in FP1 while Rosberg had power unit issues but it didn’t seem to harm his weekend. Both Ferrari drivers had their own issues, the both messed up on their last runs allowing the German to take pole.
Rosberg managed to take the win after he managed to stay ahead building his lead despite losing out at the start. There was drama for Vettel who collided with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat before dropping down the field. But the Russian recovered to third after a puncher later in the race.
More reliability problems came for Hamilton in Russia when he suffered an engine failure at the end of Q2. Hamilton required another power unit change, while Rosberg was unchallenged going seven tenths faster than Vettel. But Vettel had his own issues a gearbox change prompted Williams’s Valtteri Bottas to second ahead of Raikkonen.
Rosberg would again take another victory building up his lead over Hamilton, despite him showing he had the pace to take his first win and a third in Sochi. For home boy Kvyat it proved a difficult race after contact lead to a puncher, sending him into a spin sending him on a one way ticket to the barriers and into retirement and brought the safety car out and the first of many foul mouthed words from Vettel this season. It was a strong race from Max Verstappen strong fighting with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso until lap 34 until he was forced to retire because of an engine failure. This allowed McLaren to take their first double point score of the season.
History says you win the first four races you go onto win the title; would it be true again in 2016?
Self-destruction leads to youngest winner
After the Russian Grand Prix, Hamilton needed to get his championship back on track in Barcelona. But the main talking point going into Barcelona was the announcement that Red Bull demoted Daniil Kvyat following the crash with Sebastian Vettel in Sochi. He would be replaced by Max Verstappen for the rest of the season.
Hamilton was in great form in qualifying taking pole from Rosberg by a quarter of a second. That pole looked set for his championship defence to restart and see him take Red Bull once again out-qualified Ferrari with Verstappen getting fourth the best of his career.
Drama unfolded almost immediately as the two Mercedes made contact at turn four. It was Hamilton who got away better on the run to turn one, but Rosberg came back at him. He led through turn two and three, it appeared he had a problem so Hamilton tried to go down the inside but Rosberg pushed him off.
This sent Hamilton into a spin, and then he made contact with Rosberg sending them both on a one way ticket to retirement! What unfolded next was a battle between Verstappen and both the Ferrari’s. But the teenager didn’t buckle under the pressure with a two stop strategy to allow him to take his first victory, the first win for a Dutchman in F1 and topple Vettel as the youngest winner in Grand Prix racing.
Hamilton rises again
After the events of Barcelona and twelve months ago Hamilton wanted another win at his ‘home’ race as did Rosberg who wanted a fourth win at his ‘home’ race too. Rosberg stole victory a year ago thanks to Verstappen’s crash leading to an error off track from Hamilton side of the garage.
But Mercedes wouldn’t this time would not have it their own way, the pace Red Bull had in Barcelona looked genuine as the team looked strong in practice and taking pole with Ricciardo. Verstappen it was hero to zero, the Dutchman crashed in Q1 meaning he started on a back row.
The race was wet starting behind the safety car, when it started for real Hamilton must have learnt from his mistake last year as he soon was on the attack aided by team orders to allow him past Rosberg.
As the circuit started to dry, Hamilton went onto dry tyres prompting Ricciardo to pit however, Red Bull weren’t ready for him! Just as Mercedes cost Hamilton victory last season, it seemed Red Bull were making the same mistake losing the lead to Hamilton.
Verstappen v Monte Carlo round three saw him join the long list of retirements after locking up into Casino Square sliding on the damp track into the barrier. Jolyon Palmer lost grip on the zebra crossing, almost taking Grosjean with him.
Raikkonen was next, crashed at the hairpin braking his front wing and dragged it under his Ferrari all the way to the chicane before pulling off. In the process he almost forced Haas’s Romain Grosjean into the wall, Kvyat hit Kevin Magnussen while both Sauber’s of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson also collided at Rascasse.
Hamilton Floats like a butterfly, stings like a bee
Montreal has been a place where Hamilton has always performed well and once again he took pole in damp conditions from Rosberg and Vettel with all three of them within a second. this did see a number of accidents in the session with a few sliding off track.
It was Vettel who got away better getting pass both the Mercedes but once again Hamilton and Rosberg made contact. With the pair of them escaping without taking eachother out, but it saw Rosberg drop down the field. But Hamilton he needed to go on the attack, which was aided by safety car and a change of strategy to a one stop for Hamilton. This allowed Hamilton to build his lead and in his ‘own’ words “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” To his sixth win in Montréal while Rosberg had a messy afternoon fighting with Verstappen.
Rosberg back in form
After three years the Grand Prix of Europe was back over the years the race as evolve from a honorary title into its own race, it was held previously in Valencia, the Nurburgring and Donington.
But this year it was a new circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan which would hold the race around the city, billed as the fastest street race in the world. It was taking place against the back drop of a divided conintant in the mists of Britain’s Referendum on its EU Membership, the biggest refugee crisis and concerns over human rights.
Rosberg took pole after Hamilton made a costly error, locking up on his final run in Q3 going into the wall in the narrowest section which brought out the red flag. This meant no one could improve giving Sergio Perez a front row start ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel who set an identical lap times.
Rosberg again led from the start after getting away better and took victory despite a technical issue which he managed to fix. Hamilton was also affected by the same issue but under the rules Mercedes couldn’t help him, Rosberg found the problem and fixed it himself. Vettel finished second ahead of Raikkonen, however he had crossed the white line entering the pits earning a penalty.
It was another tough race for McLaren with Jenson Button just missing out on points and Fernando Alonso being forced to retire because downshift problems.
However, Rosberg was back he took the first win in Baku and at the Grand Prix of Europe ahead of Hamilton! But, could he keep the momentum going into July?
Would Red Bull get their own way when F1 arrived at the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix? It didn’t look like it as Hamilton was in fine form in wet/dry conditions taking pole from Nico Rosberg, however the German would drop back to seventh following a crash in FP3 meaning a gearbox change. Drama saw both Force India’s Perez and Toro Rosso’s Kvyat suffering suspension failures. So it would be Hamilton, Hulkenberg and Jenson Button on the front row!
Hamilton went onto win despite a messy race including a pit stop error, but that wasn’t Mercedes worry as once again both made contact. There was other drama too, as Sebastian Vettel’s tyre exploded on lap twenty seven when he was leading spreading rubber across the track. Verstappen finish second thanks to the contact on the last lap.
There was other last lap drama too, Perez hit mechanical problems which saw him crash out promoting Bottas to ninth an Pascal Wehrlein to tenth. Wehrlein points were well deserved following the difficult 2014-15 and there first since Monaco 2014.
Hamilton had it all to do in the final moments of qualifying at Silverstone after his previous two laps in Q3 were removed because he had exceeded track limits. He pulled it together when it mattered, going three tenths faster than Rosberg. The Sliver Arrows were in a class of their own comfortably ahead of the Red Bull, so much so that Hamilton broke the lap record not once but twice.
The mixed British summer weather continued into Sunday, but that didn’t worry Hamilton who delivered a near faultless drive while drivers were being caught out by the weather. Hamilton was on it right away opening the gap over Rosberg while others struggled the first casualty was Wehrlein who was caught out and aquaplaned into the barrier. Things weren’t better for team-mate Haryanto, who spun off at Abbey. Jolyon Palmer’s debut at Silverstone ended with a rear tyre falling off after a pit stop, as for Button he was out of the points.
Verstappen had another great drive, like Hamilton proving himself as a great in the wet getting a podium and then joked he needed to change his passport after being cheered by the fans saying “It’s amazing, they are even cheering on for a non-British driver.”
It was another wet afternoon for qualifying when F1 moved to Budapest, but it was Rosberg who had the upper hand this time, the German stole pole from Hamilton after the track improved throughout the session. But his lap was in doubt, did he improve under yellow flags? When Alonso went off. The steward decided he didn’t, so he started ahead of Hamilton.
Red Bull put in another good performance to out qualify the Ferrari’s but they were also caught by the yellow flags stopping them from improving their times. Like at Silverstone there was many casualties along with Alonso, Ericsson locked up going off and Massa relationship with Turn Four wasn’t improving, when his car sapped sending him once again into the barriers after touching the white line.
Hamilton looked in great form getting past Rosberg, but for a few corners lost out to Ricciardo off the line. Once he got past the Australian he remained in the lead for much of the race taking his fifth victory at the circuit to take the lead of the championship. It was a great ace for Ricciardo, he was not far behind and had led during the pit stops, he also didn’t respond to pressure from Vettel.
Jenson Button described his afternoon as the “race from hell.” Because of a hydraulic issue which McLaren were giving him help for. But the stewards deemed was illegal assistance giving him a penalty.
Rosberg set himself up well for his home race at Hockenheim beating Hamilton to pole despite an electronic issue early on in the session. Hamilton tried to use that to his advantage, but the German responded and when Hamilton tried to respond to him he made two errors on his last run in Q3, this meant Rosberg needed to get a good lap. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo will start third ahead of team-mate Max Verstappen who once again out-qualified the Ferrari’s
Would Hamilton keep his lead after winning all four races in July, when F1 returned from its summer break at Spa?
There was another driver change when F1 returned at Spa following the summer break. Manor announced that Esteban Ocon was replacing Rio Haryanto after he failed to meet his contractual obligations.
The other news was that Hamilton would take a double engine penalty following failures earlier in the season meaning he would start last. Joining Hamilton with engine penalties was McLaren’s Alonso, would join him on the back row for the same reason.
Rosberg took pole, while Hamilton and Alonso focused on race strategy and 107% rule. Joining Rosberg at the front and looking to be his main threat this weekend were the Red Bulls with Verstappen the Belgian born Dutchman starting on the front row ahead off the Ferrari’s. While Ocon would make his debut from eighteenth.
Rosberg took control, as it appeared that no one could catch the Mercedes which was suited to the circuit. Renaults Kevin Magnussen came a casualty of Spa, the Dane lost control at the top of Eau Rogue spinning off a 150mph shattering his car and bringing the red flag out!
This was good for Hamilton and Alonso, by this point they had reached the top ten. When the race got going again they were in good position with Hamilton going onto finish on the podium and Alonso holding off Massa to finish sixth. While Sainz was another casualty as his rear tyre exploded on the Kemmel Straight sending him spinning breaking his rear wing and putting him out of the race.
There was more driver news four days later when F1 arrived in Monza, Felipe Massa made an announcement that he was retiring after making the decision not to talk about renewing his contract Williams. His announcement at Monza was symbolic after an eight years at Ferrari and it prompted the Button return to Williams rumour into over drive.
Hamilton was again at his best during qualifying, going half a second quicker than Rosberg to take pole. It was a good session and weekend toping nearly all the session. Rosberg did go faster in Q2 tho after Hamilton flat spotted his tyres. Red Bull once again which was a surprise as they were expected to be behind the Ferrari’s.
After qualifying it was McLaren’s turn to make an announcement about their line-up. Everyone was expecting with Massa now gone that Button was leaving for Williams, but he wasn’t he was to remain with the team. But after his brilliant drive in Bahrain the team has chosen Stoffel Vandoorne to drive alongside Alonso next season.
Hamilton made an awful start allowing Rosberg into the lead and losing five places on the first lap. But he tried to come back at him and he come back. Ferrari were looking strong this weekend, but the Tolfi knew that really it would be difficult for them to take victory. However, there was some delight as Vettel gained a podium for the team.
The only incident and retirements in the race was Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and Sabuer’s Felipe Nasr. Nasr appeared to squeeze Palmer on the exit of turn two when the pair made contact, with him being given a ten second penalty by the stewards
Rosberg dominated qualifying in Singapore going half a second faster than the lap record set by Hamilton. It was a strong weekend for Red Bull once again with Ricciardo having spilt the two Mercedes with Verstappen in fourth. Hamilton messed up his last run in Q3 as for Vettel he dropped out in Q1.
Neither of the Williams made it through to Q3 following Romain Grosjean crashing his Haas into the wall at turn 10. The Frenchman lost grip going in locking up sliding into the barrier. But the big question was had Mercedes learnt the mistakes that they made last year?
Rosberg’s form carried into Sunday after holding off a serious challenge from Red Bull in the closing stages to take victory. It was a clos fought battle at the front between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, with Ricciardo pushing Rosberg at the front and Raikkonen pushing Hamilton.
Hulkenberg tired an ambitious move on Sainz, but that ended with them both crashing into retirement bringing out the safety car. But this caused drama on the restart, a marshal was still on circuit when the race restarted! Alonso managed to use the crash of Hulkenberg to his advantage to hold off pressure through the pit stops of Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen.
Hamilton took pole in Sepang, going half a second faster than Rosberg and broke the lap record. Hamilton seemed full of confidence after that lap, saying that he “could of gone faster.” Red Bull once again out qualified the Ferrari’s which puts them in a fight tomorrow after both teams looked strong in practice.
Verstappen celebrated his nineteen birthday, by out-qualifying team-mate Ricciardo followed by the two Ferrari’s. While another engine penalty meant Alonso would start last.
Hamilton dominated most of the race until, “oh no, no” on lap forty one his engine gave up. He was on course for taking the win and more importantly the lead of the championship. What unfolded next, was an intense battle between Rosberg, Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Verstappen was getting caught in traffic, which was holding Ricciardo up. This meant Red Bull was forced to allow Ricciardo past allowing him to go on to victory.
Vettel was out at the first corner after the German hit Verstappen going into Turn One which then caused him to tag Rosberg. Rosberg then fought with Kimi Raikkonen, but his five second lead was wiped out by a ten-second penalty applied by the stewards for causing a collision.
Both McLarens however, had their best results of the season with Alonso finishing seventh after starting at the back and Button ninth.
What would happen in the next five races, now with the title wide open?
Rosberg was the narrow victor in qualifying, the German had set pole by just 83cm after he put together a perfect lap to just edge Hamilton. This weekend it was the Ferrari’s ahead of Red Bull with Raikkonen third and Vettel fourth. However that contact in Sepang cost Vettel, meaning Verstappen started fourth, Ricciardo fifth then Vettel.
Rosberg built on that pole to take victory following another awful start by Hamilton falling down to eighth. He did come back during the closing stages to fight with Verstappen including on the penultimate lap, when Hamilton saw a chance to pass Verstappen down the inside going into the chicane, but had to pull left dramatically as Verstappen jinked right to slam the door.
Vettel finished fourth following a frustrating race through the field. The German made a good start passing Sergio Perez early on followed by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen
But for Mercedes it didn’t matter as the first and third place was enough to seal a third constructors title. However, it was beginning to look very difficult for Hamilton to win his third successive title.
As for Mclaren and Honda, it was a very tough weekend with Fernando Alonso sixteenth and Jenson Button eighteenth.
When F1 arrived in Austin, the battle off the track between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was entering the final weeks. Like in F1 the battle for the White House was as bitter and had more twists and turns than a soap opera. But, was the outsider before the season about to add to the surprise year?
The battle for pole was as close on track as the polls were; Hamilton was a tenth faster than Rosberg in qualifying. Hamilton had looked in fine form all weekend, but his session wasn’t the best has he suffered with weird gearshifts. Ricciardo again out-qualified Verstappen and the Ferrari’s just behind.
Hamilton made the better start getting ahead of Rosberg where they remained for much of the race. This was helped partly by Verstappen, who handed them both a free stop after his engine blew bringing out the Virtual Safety Car. Verstappen had been trying to use fresh tyres to get ahead of the Ferrar’s who he had lost out to in the pits.
It was time for clash of the Spaniards, Alonso and Sainz where fight over position but the elder of the two was going too hard, pushing the Toro Rosso off. It just added to the messy afternoon for Alonso, earlier he banging wheels with Felipe Massa as he passed his former team-mate and punctured his Williams in the process. Massa also suffered a puncher after being hit at the start. But the Brazilian finished seventh with Hamilton taking a fifth victory in America!
It was another close fight between Hamilton and Rosberg in Mexico. Hamilton had the upper hand in qualifying, this was key as he knew he needed a points score to stop Rosberg becoming champion this weekend. The momentum that Red Bull has had in recent races, once again they out qualified the Ferrari’s.
It was a disappointing session for Perez, the Mexican failed to get into Q3 after being pushed out in the closing moments of Q2 by Button. As for Esteban Gutiérrez he didn’t get his Haas out of Q1.
Hamilton took victory from Rosberg. But who was third Verstappen, Vettel or Ricciardo? Verstappen finished third, and then was stripped of third with Vettel being awarded third following his driving during the race. However, during that battle Vettel said “Move! Move! For BEEP sake.” As Verstappen refused to move out his way and a quick decision saw him demoted before the podium.
Later Vettel was summoned to face the stewards over his conduct. Vettel had also told race director Charlie Whiting repeatedly to “f— off”, this earned him a penalty prompting Ricciardo to third. All the drama over shadowed what was a great drive from Hamilton, who showed he can come back on his team-mate to close the lead that Rosberg has had over him since the summer break.
The controversy rumbled on from Mexico to Brazil, as teams arrived in Suo Paulo the news was that Ferrari were launching an appeal over Vettel’s penalty. Ferrari claimed that they had new evidence and following a case to the stewards, the GPS evidence that Ferrari had was rejected.
A steward said “In relation to the GPS data, we note that this data is available to teams during the race. It is also available to, and referred to by, the stewards, in the Stewards Room during the race.”
Mercedes looked in fine form in qualifying, the battle between Hamilton and Rosberg was as close as ever but it was Hamilton who had the slight edge over the German. They both were ahead clearly of the Red Bulls and Ferrari’s, Raikkonen was ahead of Vettel and Verstappen. Massa would start his last home race thirteenth.
Conditions were appalling come race day, this always tended to play to Hamilton but the question was could it and everyone else keep it on track. By the start we had already lost Grosjean, who crash after spinning his Haas on the way to the grid causing the start to be delayed.
Hamilton pulled away taking victory, it was even difficult for him with the torrential rain lashing down on circuit.
After controversy in Mexico, it was a fantastic race for Verstappen. The Dutchman pulled off some amazing passes and the save of the century after getting caught out on the start straight unbelievably keeping it out of the wall to finish third.
It was an emotional end to his career at the race he was calling his ‘final’ Grand Prix for Massa, the two times winner here crashed into the pit wall and into retirement. This prompted a round of applause, cheers as an emotional Massa draped in the Brazilian flag and in tears as he walked down the pit lane and into ‘retirement’.
Raikkonen was another casualty of the pit wall, the Fin crashed on the first restart shattering debris across the track bringing out the red flag. While it was heart break for Massa, for Nasr and Sabuer it was joy as he scored crucial points for the team allowing the team to leapfrog Manor in the championship on count back.
But Hamilton’s win would see the title go to Abu Dhabi and Dual in the Desert II!
After twenty races the championship was again to be settled in a desert dual between Hamilton and Rosberg. Hamilton this time was on the back foot for the first time since the pair met in junior formulae, he knew he needed to win or be a few places ahead of Rosberg but be no lower than fourth.
Hamilton appeared through-out the weekend like he had the slight edge over Rosberg, beating him to pole. Hamilton always manages to perform better than Rosberg under pressure but he managed to keep within a few tenths of his team-mate, Red Bull had the upper hand getting Daniel Ricciardo into third ahead of the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. However, the Red Bull’s used the less durable ultrasoft tyres.
With it all now on the line it was down to the lasr fifty five laps to decide whether it would be Nico or Lewis who would be world champion but the only grantee was that history would be made!
It was an intends fight between the two, Rosberg really wanted the victory but Hamilton had the control of the race at the front. Hamilton knew going into the race he needed to push his team-mate off the podium, so he tried to push him into the Red Bull’s.
This wasn’t enjoyable for the team, who instructed Hamilton repeatedly to speed up. He had other ideas, with both Verstappen and Vettel beginning to gain on Rosberg and if they could get past Rosberg it would give him his fourth world title.
The battle between Vettel and Verstappen was tight as the Ferrari was pushing the Red Bull with his cleaver strategy. Earlier in the race the Dutchman had been hit which started a chain of events which played to Rosberg’s hands.
While everyone focused on the Mercedes battle, there was another key battle worth millions between Force India and Williams over fourth in the constructors. Williams needed to get both Massa and Bottas ahead of the Force India’s to retake fourth place. But with Massa well down in the top ten it handed it to Force India.
Despite his best efforts to get Rosberg off the podium, it was in vein as Hamilton won the battle but Rosberg took third place to seal the world title and win the war!
Round up / reflection
Rosberg took the title by five points from Hamilton. A much improved Red Bull saw Daniel Ricciardo finish third and Vettel fourth, Verstappen following the switch in May finished fifth.
But while everyone began to ask what was going to happen next year, there was yet another twist in the tale stunting the paddock and everyone when Rosberg announced he was retiring from F1 with immediate affect! Rosberg had clearly been able to match Hamilton this season and everyone was looking forward to how it would unfold with the new regulations next season.
2016, a stunning season and one which saw Rosberg beat Hamilton for the first time. It also saw the emergence of new talent in Verstappen as a force to be reckoned with in the future and the collapse of Ferrari for now as a major force in Formula One!
But, Rosberg will go down in history after repeating Damon Hill becoming the second son of a champion to become champion!