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- December 09 2016 The Minutia Review of the 2016 Formula 1 Season
The Minutia Review of the 2016 Formula 1 Season
Dirty tricks, broken friendships, utter domination and another German world champion whose iron will, consistency and determination overcame raw, unadulterated talent – and that’s just the Mercedes F1 team!
Nico Rosberg © mrlaugh
Welcome to the 2016 Formula 1 season review.
Coming into the 2016 season, Nico Rosberg was on a roll. He’d won the final three races of the 2015 season in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi and started 2016 by winning the first four, in Australia, Bahrain, China and Russia. Even though the viewing public (and secretly everyone in F1) knew that the season was again going to be a straight fight between Nico and Lewis for F1 supremacy, there was a flickering that there might be some worthy competition.
Mercedes F1 © Jake Archibald
That competition was most likely going to come from the Sebastian Vettel – Kimi Räikkönen dream team at Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo and Dani Kvyat at Red Bull but actually, it came from a place no-one expected.
When Kvyat was demoted from Red Bull to Toro Rosso up stepped an unassuming young Dutchman called Max Verstappen. The son of former F1 driver Jos who had 106 starts between 1994 and 2003 for teams such as Benneton, Stewart and Arrows, 17 year-old Max is a prodigious talent who burst onto the scene in 2015 in the same way Lewis Hamilton did eight years previously. Five races into his second season (and at the time not old enough to hold a driver’s license in Holland), he won the Spanish Grand Prix holding off multiple world champions Kimi and Seb for the win.
He’s the youngest driver to compete in F1 (17y 166d); the youngest to lead an F1 lap; the youngest to set a fastest lap; the youngest to secure a podium finish and the youngest race winner. Aside from the seemingly never-ending Hamilton – Rosberg soap opera, the 2016 season will be remembered as the coming-of-age of Max Verstappen.
Max Verstappen © Renault Sport
This guy is a future world champion and he’ll be giving the Silver Arrows a good run for their money in 2017 and beyond.
Lewis v Nico
Let’s be honest, the media, the viewing public and the millions of armchair fans around the world were focused on the battle between these two ex-best friends but before we get to that, here’s an at-a-glance look at how completely dominant Mercedes were in 2016…
Grand Prix Winner Team
Australia Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Bahrain Nico Rosberg Mercedes
China Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Russia Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Spain Max Verstappen Red Bull
Monaco Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Canada Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Europe Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Austria Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Britain Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Hungary Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Germany Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Belgium Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Italy Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Singapore Nico Rosberg Mercedes
Malaysia Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
Japan Nico Rosberg Mercedes
USA Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Mexico Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Brazil Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Abu Dhabi Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
Nico Rosberg – 8 wins – 385 points
Lewis Hamilton – 10 wins – 380 points
Daniel Ricciardo – 1 win – 256 points
Max Verstappen – 1 win – 204 points
That was it, four drivers sharing out 21 races but what does the future hold for the two Mercedes drivers?
Best friends in their karting days at MBM (Mercedes-Benz/McLaren), they often discussed how cool it would be to be F1 teammates, but as the adage goes, ‘be careful what you wish for.’
Nico Rosberg & Lewis Hamilton © ibtimes.co.uk
They are both ferociously competitive drivers – according to former F1 driver Robert Kubica they even had speed pizza eating competitions as kids – and as they rose up the ranks through karting, Formula 3 and into F1 when they came together again at Mercedes, they remained close friends, but not long after they became teammates the cracks appeared.
The incident which started the friendship’s downward spiral was when Nico appeared to deliberately block Lewis as he (Lewis) tried to get pole at Monaco in 2014. At Spa the same year they crashed with the team blaming Nico and that, it seemed, was that.
In 2015 in Austin Lewis forced Nico out wide into turn one and went on to take his third world championship (with the infamous cap-throwing incident) and in Shanghai, Nico accused Lewis of compromising his race by driving slowly…
In the final race of 2016 where Nico finally won his first world championship, history repeated itself with Lewis again slowing the race pace to a crawl in an attempt to bring the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers into the mix to see if they could pass Nico and give Lewis the points margin he needed. Lewis knew precisely what he was doing and while it can be considered unsportsmanlike behaviour, it’s not illegal.
Silverstone 2016 © Jacob T Meltzer
Lewis was under orders not to try any strategic games that would jeopardise Nico’s race and was repeatedly told to speed up but came back with ‘let us race’.
The situation got so acute that at one stage, Paddy Lowe, the Executive Director who will only ever intervene in the most extreme of circumstances came on the radio and said ‘Lewis, this is Paddy, we need you to pick up the pace to win this race’ to which the driver replied ‘I’m in the lead right now, I’m quite comfortable where I am’.
At the time of writing, Mercedes haven’t decided if or indeed to what extent they will punish Hamilton for his disobedience and the press seem equally unsure, with guesses ranging from dismissal for gross misconduct at one end to a talking to and a slap on the wrist at the other…
What we had was an F1 rivalry akin to the most famous of them all – Niki Lauda and James Hunt; Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. As news broke of Nico’s retirement, we’ll never see how that rivalry would have manifested itself.
Was it a classic F1 season? For the purist, probably not but there were plenty of talking points that journalists and broadcasters could pick over and as the season came to a close, Australian news site news.com.au* published eight things to take away…
- The fastest driver doesn’t always win – Lewis was clearly faster but reliability issues cost him the title.
- F1 has a new box office star – Step forward Max Verstappen.
- Alonso remains a phenomenon – Tenth, in that car? Imagine what he could do in a proper car…
- F1 needs the 2017 rules refresh – Hopefully it will make the sport more competitive. In 59 races in the three-year hybrid era, Mercedes won 51.
- F1’s big beasts are on the verge of extinction – Ecclestone is just about still there but gone are Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Patrick Head, Max Mosley, Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo and Ron Dennis was recently ousted as boss of McLaren. A new era of F1 is upon us.
- Ferrari are in the doldrums – For the most famous team in F1 and one of only two teams with the financial clout to build their own cars and engines (Mercedes is the other), they didn’t win a single race, qualifying outside the front row all season.
- The F1 world map is being ripped up – A race in Azerbaijan, no German grand prix in 2017 for the first time in years and financial troubles in Brazil means that with Felipe Massa’s retirement and Felipe Nasr’s sponsors pulling out, Brazil may well get erased from the F1 map.
- It’s never been tougher at the back – The split between the haves and have nots isn’t closing, it’s getting bigger. Example – Mercedes got 765 points, Manor (1), Sauber (2) Renault (8) and Haas (29) got 40 between them.
*the article was originally published on Sky Sports’ website.
At this point it would be remiss of us if we didn’t tip our hats to Jenson Button and Felipe Massa who both took their F1 curtain calls in Abu Dhabi. They are both fine drivers, positive role models and ambassadors for the sport of F1 as well as being absolute gentlemen who will be missed on and off the track for their skill, class and professionalism.
Jenson Button & Felipe Massa © thisisf1.com
2017 and Beyond…
Just as this article was about to be published, news broke of Nico Rosberg’s immediate retirement from F1! Perfect timing…
In his first words about the shock decision, he said ‘I have climbed my mountain; I am on the peak, so this feels right.’
Nico Rosberg/Mercedes Team © sportstarlive
Wow. There will certainly be much more on this incredible story in the days and weeks to come!
With attention turning to the new season already, the powers that be have decided that changes to the look of the cars are central to their tinkering. Wider side wings, fatter tyres and lower rear wings make the cars look more aggressive and changes to the regulations governing suspension, the floor and the weight will give the cars, according to the FIA, substantial gains of over three seconds.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff suggests the 2017 cars ‘will be more difficult to drive’ and ‘deploy much more G on the driver like in the past’. He added ‘It’s going in the right direction, we need to make the cars faster and the cars better. We just need the fastest cars to produce a good show.’
The usual driver merry-go-round will inevitably happen but now, with a seat at Mercedes up for grabs, the competition will be even hotter! Will they go for proven class like Alonso who did brilliantly in a poor car or will they try and poach one or other of the Ferrari drivers? There’s always the option of prizing Verstappen from Red Bull or they could go promote from within, with talented young Mercedes drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon definitely on Toto Wolff’s radar.
The 2017 Formula 1 season is set to be more competitive, more bonkers and more extreme and we can’t wait for it to start already!