Champions again, but was there really any doubt in that? Mercedes once again dominated at the front of the field, winning all but two of the twenty one races, a record during a season of records.
What surprised some was the result, with Nico Rosberg winning the drivers championship ahead of his long term ‘friend’ Lewis Hamilton. You have to look back at the latter end of the 2015 season to see how that changed though, where Nico got the momentum going into the season to launch him into a title bid.
It started well for the German, winning the first four races in Australia, Bahrain, China and Russia – the now established flyaway races at the start of the season. This came at a time when Lewis Hamilton was struggling, the car was letting him down, and he could only achieve two second places, a third place in Bahrain and seventh in China.
After coming to a head in Spain, where the pair collided on the first lap of the race, Hamiltons’s situation looked desperate, but as ever in Formula One, fortunes can change and they did just in time for the three time world champion. Two wins in Monaco and Canada, and then later in the magic month of July saw him take four straight wins in Austria, at home at Silverstone, Hungary and Germany, with only a single win for Nico Rosberg in Azerbaijan.
The momentum had swung back onto the side of Hamilton, but there were issues ahead to take care of – that of the lack of engines to take him to the end of the season following his early season failures. With the team electing to take the hit in Belgium in order to ‘bank’ them for the rest of the season, it was the start of another swing in the favour of Nico. Winning the next three races, it wasn’t until Malaysia where the next, and decisive twist in the season occurred.
Hamilton was leading in Sepang, a tough weekend or so it looked like for Rosberg. That was until the British driver had a large engine failure in what looked like a dominant position in the Mercedes. His failure to win the championship could be traced back to this race, in what looked like an unstoppable momentum, just as Rosberg had achieved in 2015.
He did what he could, and set a new record in the process by taking pole and winning the last four races of the season, but with Rosberg taking second in every race it wasn’t enough and failed by fifteen points.
What was to follow was a shock, even for Mercedes. After winning his first, and now only world championship, Nico Rosberg announced the week after the confirming the title in Abu Dhabi that he would retire. Unwilling to go through the sacrifices of the last year, now that he can say that he is World Champion he is taking the easy life at home in Monaco with his young family.
It leaves them in a difficult position though, who do they choose as their replacement at this late stage of ‘silly season’, and what will happen with technical boss Paddy Lowe who is also rumoured to be departing. Although you wouldn’t bet against Mercedes in 2017, cracks have started to appear, and Red Bull are there and waiting.