Nico Rosberg crowned 2016 F1 World Champion

Lewis Hamilton won the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it was Nico Rosberg, who won the World Championship 34 years after his father Keke won.

The son of 1982 title-winner Keke Rosberg is also only the second son of a World Champion, after Britain's Damon Hill, to take the crown.   -  AP

Germany's Nico Rosberg won his first Formula One World Championship on Sunday after finishing second in a tense Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which was won by Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg, who had needed only to finish in the top three to be sure of the title, held position to become his country's third champion after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.

> Relieved F1 World Champion Rosberg: I'm glad it's over!

After all the suspense and expectation, the race saw Hamilton chalking up his 10th win of the season, and fourth in a row, but powerless to do anything about the championship outcome despite making every effort.

> Lewis Hamilton reluctantly congratulates new F1 Champion Nico Rosberg

"LEWIS THIS IS PADDY"

Hamilton's intentional slowing of the pace was the only strategy he could take to stop Rosberg from building a sizeable gap over the chasing pack. But it was a plan that did not find favour with his team.

Instructions to pick up the pace and make absolutely sure of the race win were repeatedly ignored, prompting Mercedes' executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe to take to the airwaves.

With Vettel closing extremely quickly in the closing laps, Lowe told Hamilton: "Lewis, this is Paddy. We need you to pick up the pace to win this race."

But Hamilton's response was a curt one, as he replied: "I'm in the lead right now. I'm quite comfortable where I am."





"WE DID IT! WE DID IT!"

Unfortunately for Hamilton, his efforts did not result in a dramatic late twist, leaving Rosberg to bask in the glory. Responding to his wife Vivian on the team radio, Rosberg jubilantly shouted: "We did it! We did it!"

He then proceeded to celebrate with a series of donuts on the start-finish line, before leaping over the pit wall to take the acclaim of the Mercedes crew.

A BEARHUG FOR BERNIE, BUT LITTLE FROM LEWIS

If you needed any evidence as to the tense relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg, the scene in the podium waiting room provided it.

While long-time F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was greeted with a bearhug from Rosberg, but the two Mercedes team-mates did not even exchange pleasantries.

Hamilton would not put his arm around Rosberg as they posed for a photograph and did not celebrate with him on the podium.

He did, however, finally offer Rosberg a word of congratulations during the podium interviews, shaking his hand and saying: "Congratulations to the new world champion. Good job, man."

 

Rosberg follows father Keke in his own fashion

Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion Keke, could be considered a chip off the old block after the Mercedes driver followed his Finnish father in winning the Formula One title but that would be a mistake. On Sunday, the Rosbergs became only the second son of a World Champion, after Britain's Damon Hill, to take the crown.

A glance at old photographs and race reports serves to highlight the different eras and different personalities, even if both are now only the second set of father and son World Champions.

The moustachioed Keke was swashbuckling, hard-charging, fast and muscular behind the wheel as well as being a noted chain-smoker in an era when drivers could not always be sure of surviving the season.

At Silverstone in 1985, the Finn became the first driver to lap a circuit at an average speed of more than 160 miles per hour in his Williams. When he got out of the car, he lit up a cigarette.

Nico, a personable and healthy-living family man with an easy charm sometimes mistaken for blandness, is much more likely to be seen tucking into an organic salad or devouring reams of data.

“Keke was very demanding... let's just say he didn't interact with the boys very well. He turned up, drove the car and went away again,” recalled former McLaren stalwart Dave Ryan who worked with him in 1986. “But he was a huge personality.”

Nobody would have dared to bestow on Keke the nickname 'Britney', after pop star Britney Spears, that Nico was given early in his career by Williams team-mate Mark Webber in a reference to his blond good looks.

Expensively educated — he had a place to study aeronautical engineering at London's Imperial College — and fluent in five languages, Nico was born in Germany, but grew up in a life of luxury in Monaco.

The 31-year-old is very different also to team-mate and triple champion Lewis Hamilton, a regular in the celebrity gossip pages, who spends plenty of time in America hanging out with friends from the worlds of film and music.

Much of the debate in the run-up to the title decider focused on whether Rosberg, who has also had to contend with jibes that he is not really German, would make a 'boring' champion.

Indeed, there are those who have questioned whether he is even a worthy winner.

Formula One's 86-year-old supremo Bernie Ecclestone has made little secret of the fact that the edgier Briton, whose background is a world apart from Rosberg's privileged upbringing, is better box-office.

“I come from a not-great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad's apartment. And Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and hotels and boats and all these kind of things,” Hamilton said during their 2014 title battle. “So the hunger is different.”

 

Any driver who under-estimates Rosberg, and just how much hunger and desire he has, does so at their peril however.

Ross Brawn, the former Mercedes team principal who lured Rosberg from Williams to the now multiple championship-winning team, has no illusions.

“He's very resilient. He slips behind a bit, then he has a good talking to himself and comes back. A lot of drivers, having been punished by Lewis for a couple of years, would have gone away,” he said recently. “He's done a fabulous job of getting beaten and coming back.”

Losing out to Hamilton in 2014 and 2015, Rosberg started 2016 with four straight victories.

He has won more races than most previous champions did in their careers, and nine this year alone — even if Hamilton ended up with 10 and more pole positions as well.

Keke won his title with just one victory, ending his Formula One career with a mere five in total.

Those who point to Hamilton's reliability woes, and blown engines, as a big factor in the title outcome are ignoring the German's consistency, ability to clear his mind of clutter and sheer persistence.

“Of course he's a worthy World Champion. You win the World Championship or you don't win it,” triple title-holder Jackie Stewart, who has long been an admirer of the German's talents.

A teenage friend and team-mate of Hamilton in karting, the pair know each other and their emotional foibles better than any other drivers on the grid. There have been plenty of psychological games, but Rosberg has kept his focus this season, sticking to his mantra of taking one race at a time, and it has paid off.

“He just kept on scoring when it mattered,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “The points are what they are, they reflect his performance. And he has kept his cool.”

Stats:

- Nico Rosberg is Formula One's 33rd World Champion, taking his maiden title 34 years after his father Keke Rosberg won in 1982.

- The Rosbergs are the second father-son duo to win the F1 world driver's title after Graham Hill and Damon Hill.

- Lewis Hamilton becomes the first driver to lose a world title after winning more than seven races in a season.

- It has taken Rosberg 206 starts since his debut in 2006 to win the world title, the most for any champion.