Hamilton did his best to back his teammate into danger, but Rosberg kept his head down and nerves in check to finish second, and be crowned the 33rd F1 World Champion.
The tension on the grid could have been cut with the proverbial knife.
Hamilton and Rosberg angled their cars towards one another, ready for the launch. Both got away cleanly, though the German had the better getaway initially. He slotted in behind the Brit and away he went.
Max Verstappen spun his Red Bull at turn one after bumping with Nico Hulkenberg and was dead last at the end of the first lap.
However he stayed out on his supersoft tyres as those around him pitted, bringing himself back into contention: a worry for Rosberg, a saving grace for Hamilton.
He initially jumped Rosberg after the latter’s pitstop, and while at the time the German could afford to sit behind and wait for the Red Bull to pit, he was impatient to push on. He dived down the inside of Verstappen, coming close to contact with the Dutchman, before mugging him on the straight and sailing off. A brave move: not everyone can pull off a move on wily Verstappen.
You would have expected Hamilton to bolt into the distance in any other race, but he needed two cars to come between him and Rosberg in order to secure the title.
Hamilton tried to race tactically and back his teammate into first Raikkonen, then Verstappen, and then Vettel, who’s ingenious strategy allowed him to finish the race on softer, faster tyres as those around him started to struggle on their older boots.
Despite warnings from his team that Vettel was a threat to him, Hamilton continued to race as slow as he could muster, trying to fluster his teammate into making a mistake under the pressure of defending second or third place from Vettel and Verstappen.
But Rosberg’s superpower this year has been to prevent psychological mind games making any headway in his mind. His at times infuriating approach of ‘one race at a time’ helped him keep his cool, take the chances that were in front of him, and get the job done.
As Mark Webber said, he spent ninety minutes under absolute mental torture, and came out of it as World Champion.
Hamilton couldn’t have done any more and tried every trick in the book, and it still wasn’t enough to beat Mr Consistent. At least, not this year.
Mercedes will be delighted to have two World Champions in their lineup battling it out in 2017 – and that they enjoyed more television coverage this afternoon than possibly the last eight races added together.
Sebastian Vettel also finished his year on a high, after Ferrari finally got their strategy right and put on a show for the fans at the end of the race (arguably helped by Hamilton). They’ve failed to finish on the podium since Italy and so to clinch third ahead of the Red Bulls was an impressive feat.
— Formula 1 (@F1) 27 November 2016
Two legends have bowed out
The Formula One world has lost two stalwarts and will be far poorer for it- though it wasn’t quite the goodbye Jenson Button was hoping for.
He was having a bit of a battle with Sergio Perez early on in the race, before getting a bit friendly with a kerb which caused his steering to fail on lap twelve.
Felipe Massa had a bit more luck than that he had last time out and managed to finish the race in ninth, not quite enough to beat Force India to fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.
As the door closes for one era, another naturally opens. We have new rules, new cars, new rookies, and a new Formula One World Champion.
Formula One’s still able to keep you on the edge of your seat.
2016 Abu Dhabi GP Results
- Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES
- Nico Rosberg MERCEDES
- Sebastian Vettel FERRARI
- Max Verstappen RED BULL
- Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL
- Kimi Raikkonen FERRARI
- Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA
- Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA
- Felipe Massa WILLIAMS
- Fernando Alonso MCLAREN
- Romain Grosjean HAAS
- Esteban Gutierrez HAAS
- Esteban Ocon MANOR
- Pascal Wehrlein MANOR
- Marcus Ericsson SAUBER
- Felipe Nasr SAUBER
- Jolyon Palmer RENAULT
DNF: Jenson Button MCLAREN; Danill Kvyat TORO ROSSO; Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO; Kevin Magnussen RENAULT; Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS.
Formula One returns in March for the Australian GP