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2016 ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX

Rosberg celebrates his title in style 

A VERY WORTHY CHAMPION

   Over the last six weeks Nico Rosberg could smell it. He could taste it. He could see it. He could almost reach out and touch it. Now, at last, he is it. The 2016 World Formula One Drivers Champion. Nice title, huh? And a very, VERY worthy world champion he is. And of all the previous world champions Nico joins a very exclusive club. Just he and Damon Hill are world champion sons of world champions. Nico’s dad, Keke took the crown in 1982, while Damon’s old man, Graham topped the world in 1962 and 68.

   There has been an appalling amount of bollocks from some of the mostly British fans who are insistent that Lewis should have been the champ but for his unreliability. What utter tosh. These are obviously the same folk that loved “our Nige”. Apart from anything else consider this. If it hadn’t been for an errant Hamilton in Spain Nico probably would have won there. If it hadn’t been for a dodgy gearbox in Austria Nico probably would have won there. So if you balance those out against Lewis’s engine in Malaysia the win tally could have stood at 11-10 in Nico’s favour. Yes there were other issues as well but it is MOTOR sport. Cars brake down. They have since time began, well the 1880’s anyway. It’s not even as if Nico is the first guy to win a title while scoring fewer victories than his main rivals.

   How’s this for a list. Mike Hawthorn in 1958 – 1 win to Moss’ 3. No-one, not even Moss said Hawthorn was an undeserving champion. In fact Moss even went as far as to support Hawthorn when it looked possible that Mike would be disqualified from the final race which would have given the title to Moss. What fool ever said “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”. I doubt that anyone has ever thought of Stirling Moss as a loser. Does anyone think that John Surtees should not have been champion because Clark scored one more victory than he did in 1964? Or that Denny Hulme wasn’t a worthy winner in 1967? Lauda scored less wins twice, 1977 (3-4 to Andretti) and 1984 (5-7 to Prost). Is it any coincidence that Niki is now one of Nico’s team managers? Not a bad guy to learn how to win a title from, And of course there was Nico’s dad in 1982 who only took one win that year. And Prost in 1986, who scored less wins than both Mansell and Piquet and again against Senna in 1989. Or of course Piquet who won less than Mansell in 1987. All of them, Nico included, did what was required to win the World Drivers Championship. They mixed raw speed with mechanical sympathy, ran hard when they needed to and conservatively when not and were the ones who were the most consistent drivers of their day. That is why they were world champions. That is why Nico is a world champion. He did EXACTLY what he needed to do to be a world champion while being in the same team as the guy who is considered possibly the fastest driver on the grid. Again, that’s precisely what Lauda and Prost did, and they are both considered two of the true greats of the sport. No-one devalues their championships. 

  So well done Nico, a very worthy world champion.

   A fond farewell was bade to two of the nicest guys to grace the grid this century. Jenson Button arrived as a spotty twenty year old in 2000 and despite immense talent it took him over 100 Grand Prix’s to score his first of 15 victories in the 2006 Hungarian GP. As BAR morphed into Honda things went from bad to worse and it appeared, when Honda pulled the plug at the end of 2008, that his career may have been on the rocks. It is astonishing then that out of Honda’s ashes rose the Brawn GP Team which lasted just a single, championship winning, season. As reigning champion Jenson joined McLaren in 2010 alongside Hamilton, a move many questioned, but proved ultimately to firmly establish Button as one of the best of his era. So after 17 years and 305 races it is understandable that Button has grown tired of the life and decided to become an almost regular person and long may he enjoy it.

   Felipe Massa arrived in 2002 with a slightly erratic reputation and after a single season with Sauber, was dropped from their race squad to become a Ferrari tester. With support from Ferrari Felipe was back in the Sauber squad for the next two years and proved that he had become a much more reliable racing driver. So reliable in fact that in 2006 he was signed up to race for Ferrari where he often outshone Michael Schumacher in their year together. He stayed at Ferrari for eight long years and for 26 seconds was the 2008 World Champion. That was how far from the finish line Hamilton overtook Timo Glock to score enough points to deprive Felipe of the title. In 2009 Massa was again outshining team-mate Raikkonen until he was struck by an errant suspension spring from Barrichello’s Brawn causing a severe head injury. It said much for his courage that when he returned in Bahrain at the beginning of 2010 he qualified his Ferrari on the front row and finished second behind new team-mate Fernando Alonso. Gradually both his and Ferrari’s form faded until he departed to join Williams in 2014. Being away from Ferrari politics re-invigorated Felipe and he enjoyed three fairly fruitful seasons with the equally resurgent English team although another victory would continue to elude him, his final victory being that almost wonderful day at Interlagos in 2008. It is a testament to his qualities, not only as a driver, but as a thoroughly decent human being that after his accident in Brazil two weeks ago that three teams – including Mercedes for whom he had never driven – gave him a standing ovation and guard of honour as he walked back to the Williams pit garage and his family. Not even Charlie Whiting was going to clear the pit lane during that wonderfully emotional moment.

   Happy retirement guys.

   And now looking forward, there is just 119 days until racing commences at Albert park with bigger, wider, faster cars and some new talent. Although I’m yet to be convinced that the new cars will promote better racing. Hopefully though, it will bring some other teams up to really challenge Mercedes.

For full results go to http://www.mmmsport.com.au/index.php/the-database/formula-1-races/2010-2019/2016-formula-1

Sam Snape

 28-11-2016