It is the finale that many wanted, taking the championship down to the wire at the last race in Abu Dhabi.
Finely balanced, but the advantage with Nico Rosberg with the points lead, Lewis Hamilton has been ahead all weekend. He will need some help from Red Bull and Ferrari if he would become World Champion for a fourth time though.
With no dramas before the start of the race, just a long line of goodbyes for Jenson Button, Felipe Massa and Herbie Blash just to name a few.
A few of those at the back of the grid would start on the soft compound tyre including Button, Grosjean, Magnussen, Ocon and Ericsson. Gutierrez and Kvyat would start on the supersoft tyre – the same at the Red Bull’s at the front of the field.
Lewis Hamilton at the front of the field was right on the edge of his gridbox, with the lights going out for the final time. A great start from Hamilton. Raikkonen went third, with Verstappen spinning on the exit of the first corner. Perez and Hulkenberg were also duelling with Alonso behind the pair of them.
Hamilton led the field at the end of the first lap though from Rosberg and Raikkonen who stayed on the back of the Mercedes pairing. Verstappen made his way back to 19th, with Magnussen pitting for a new front wing.
The top five were covered by just three seconds by the end of the second lap with Hamilton making a mistake. Verstappen was making his may through the back of the field, making a great move on Grosjean. Bottas overtook Massa in the Williams battle at the bottom end of the top ten. Palmer had made his way up to 11th, while Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race.
Verstappen was steaming through the field, 13th by lap 5 and ahead of Kvyat. Magnussen had to retire, in his final race for Renault, while Bottas said that something was wrong with his Williams. Massa then took his chance to re-overtake his teammate, although it was said to be a flat spot on his set of tyre, even though the team said that they would box him to see what the problem is without retiring.
Hamilton was still pulling away at the front, setting fastest lap after fastest lap, although the field would go with him. Williams pulled Bottas into the pits, pushing him back into the garage.
Mercedes pitted on lap 7, saving him from the undercut threat from one of the other teams. It was a set of the soft tyre for Hamilton, Raikkonen also pitting in the Ferrari. The British driver got held up by the Ferrari entering the pitlane, with him only just getting out ahead of Verstappen. Raikkonen was just behind the Red Bull as well.
Rosberg pitted a lap later, with Vettel following him in. Once again he was held up by the Ferrari team and was even slower than Hamilton in the process. Raikkonen was right on the back of the Mercedes with the pair of them behind Verstappen. Kvyat and Guttierez also pitted from the lower end of the standing.
Yet to stop, Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race in the lead, with Perez in second. In the meantime, Valtteri Bottas was out of the car at Williams. Ricciardo and Perez pitted on lap 10, Ricciardo coming out just behind Raikkonen. Red Bull were using Verstappen to back up that pack, Rosberg not able to get ahead of the Dutchman. Button had yet to stop in seventh.
Perez overtook Button along the back straight, the McLaren still yet to stop on lap 12. It would be a retirement though for Jenson, the front right suspension failing on the McLaren, ironically on lap 13. Making it back to the pits, he waved to the flags in the process with a standing ovation from the adoring fans.
At the front of the field and nothing had changed too much, Verstappen still going in second on lap 14 and Hamilton slowing down to match the pace of the Force India driers as to not get away too much at the front of the field. The Dutchman said over the radio that he was starting to lose the rear tyres.
Dany Kvyat retired in the Toro Rosso on lap 16, after a difficult weekend for the team. After the yellow flags came in, Alonso made a move on Grosjean for 10th place and some points for McLaren. Ricciardo went down the inside of Raikkonen, with Vettel climbing on the back of the Red Bull in the process. In the end, nothing changed in the order, with them falling back from Rosberg.
Rosberg was told over the radio that it was ‘critical’ that he would need to overtake Verstappen, the gap opening up to five seconds by lao 20. He did it though that very lap, struggling with the 22 lap old tyres. It released him to the chase down Hamilton in the lead, the team encouraging him to do so.
Verstappen pitted on lap 22, a set of the soft compound tyres for Red Bull which could be possibly his one and only pit stop. Knowing that he would be on the same track as Verstappen, Rosberg was really pushing and closing the gap on Hamilton by setting consecutive fastest laps.
Covering off the threat of the undercut, Ricciardo pitted on lap 25, again putting on another set of the soft tyres. Verstappen was ahead of him though by quite a distance, although he was stuck behind Sergio Perez who had yet to stop in the Force India.
Raikkonen pitted on lap 26, he also took a set of the soft tyres, with Verstappen clearly ahead of the Ferrari. The undercut worked for Ricciardo though, getting out ahead of the Ferrari. Verstappen got ahead of Perez for 5th on the same lap though. The other Ferrari stayed out, with Ricciardo and Raikkonen close together on the track, first with the Red Bull overtaking Perez and then the Ferrari getting held up by the Force India.
Perez came in the pits at the end of that lap, while Max Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race.
Hamilton pitted at the end of lap 28, the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit. Another set of the soft tyres for Hamilton, but it was a decent 2.5 second stop for him. Rosberg would stop a lap later, with Verstappen closing in at a rate of knots on Rosberg.
The pitstop for Rosberg was also a good one, an even faster 2.3 second stop for the Mercedes team. Verstappen though was still behind the Mercedes, with his teammate also pushing behind him. The leader though at the time was Sebastian Vettel who decided to go longer than the rest of them.
During the pitstop sequence Rosberg had closed in on the back of Hamilton, the gap down to 1.3 seconds on lap 32. Alonso was falling back down the field, with both Force India’s getting ahead of him.
Vettel was complaining over the radio that his tyres were going away from him on lap 36. He stopped from the lead on lap 38, for a set of the supersoft tyres and Ocon pitted after a coming together with Ericsson. The Swede was struggling on his tyres having not pitting, both Palmer and Sainz overtook the Sauber in just one corner. He pitted at the end of that lap.
Making their way through traffic, Rosberg got to within a second of Hamilton for the lead. A co-ordinated move by Ferrari saw Vettel overtake Raikkonen really quickly. Sainz also got in front of Palmer, with the pair of them about to be lapped by Verstappen. The pair clashed in front of the hotel, with Palmer hitting the rear of the Toro Rosso.
Sainz slowed the next lap, the same problem as his sister car with a gearbox problem. He stopped before the end of the lap, retiring on lap 44, of this 55 lap race. Palmer however continued and picked up a five second penalty.
With ten laps of the race remaining, Vettel was closing in on the whole field, everyone on the same straight. The Ferrari driver got ahead using the DRS down the back straight on lap 46, with Verstappen the next driver down the road.
Hamilton was going so slowly that Verstappen and Vettel were closing in on the Mercedes pair with 8 laps remaining, they were only a couple of laps behind the German. The gap had closed between Hamilton and Rosberg to less than a second, with Verstappen also closing on the back of the Mercedes.
Verstappen was still closing slowly on the back of Rosberg. Vettel got ahead of Verstappen on lap 51, with the German on a different set of the supersoft tyre. With three laps remaining, Vettel was closing in on the back of the Mercedes.
It wasnt enough though for Hamilton, with the order remaining the same at the end of the race – with Rosberg starting second and Vettel third from Verstappen and Ricciardo.