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Rosberg Earns Controversial World Championship

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 28 2016
Nico Rosberg joined his father Keke as an F1 world champion on Sunday – despite the controversial efforts of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg joined his father Keke as an F1 world champion on Sunday – despite the controversial efforts of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

Nico Rosberg celebrated his first Formula One World Driving Championship with a burnout, mosh pit ride and tears on the podium Sunday, after his second-place finish to Lewis Hamilton in the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

formula1logoAnd true-to-form, the finish between Rosberg and Mercedes AMG teammate/nemesis Hamilton was controversial. Hamilton, the three-time/reigning World Champion, began the season-ender 12 points behind Rosberg in the standings and in need of a victory and a disastrous result for Rosberg. As the final laps played-out, Hamilton was widely criticized for ignoring instructions from the Mercedes pit wall for attempting to back Rosberg into the clutches of Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.

Rosberg, who watched Hamilton score his series-leading 10th win in 21 starts this season, said the outing was anything but another day at the office.

“Hell No!” said Rosberg, 31, tearfully dedicating the victory to wife Vivian. “That was definitely not the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had. With Max in the beginning and then with those guys coming up in the end, really not very enjoyable those last few laps. Very, very glad it’s over and unbelievably ecstatic. I’ll thank everybody else afterwards…unreal.”

Nico and father Keke, a native of Finland, joined an exclusive club with the result.  Keke Rosberg  was crowned 1982 World Champion despite winning only one race in his Williams/Ford. The Rosbergs are only the second father/son combination to have achieved that feat in F1 history. Englishman Graham Hill won World Championships in 1962 and 1968 while son Damon earned the 1996 title.

Fittingly, Keke and Nico Rosberg both won their championships with the No. 6 on their cars.

“I can give you a new statistic _ two Rosbergs are World Champions now!” Nico declared in response to a question from a Finnish journalist. “I have a Finnish passport as well, so I would love to know that everybody in Finland that was supporting me is also very, very happy. That would be great and thanks for all your support back in Finland. Of course a part of me is Finnish and always will be and I’m very proud of that.

“Yeah, very, very proud to have done the same feat as my dad achieved.”

The 33rd driver to win the F1 World Championship, Nico noted his father quietly has remained in the background as a mentor.

“Every Saturday night I get a message from him and most of the time it’s like, ‘Pedal to the metal tomorrow, full-stop, exclamation mark,’ ” said Nico, who edged Hamilton by five points in the final standings.  “So that’s his words of advice every weekend. But my dad and my mum (Sina) both have such a big part in this, my mum on the private side of course and my dad for the career steps and all the support all the way. It was massive.

“I think it’s been good how’s he’s let me get on with it and taken a step back. I think it’s been very, very good and it’s worked well for us and for me. It feels right, so I’m very, very thankful for that. It’s his way of stepping back a bit for sure.”

Hamilton won the 55-lapper around the 3.451-mile/5.554-kilometer/21-turn Yas Marina Circuit in 1 hour, 38:04.013-seconds at 186.824 mph. Rosberg trailed by 0.439-seconds with four-time World Champion Vettel 0.843-seconds back and Verstappen 1.685-seconds behind Hamilton.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia followed his Red Bull teammate across the line, with 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Finland taking sixth ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg of Germany and Sergio Perez of Mexico. Felipe Massa of Williams finished ninth in his 250th and final F1 start with two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren/Honda completing the top-10.

Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez finished 11th and 12th, respectively, to close-out the inaugural season for American-owned Haas F1 Team in the FIA World Championship.  Grosjean started 14th in the 22-driver field en route to the team’s eighth 11-place finish of the year, with the Frenchman collecting three of those results in his No. 8 car. Gutiérrez, a native of Mexico who made his final start for the team founded by American businessman Gene Haas, accounted for the other five.

The first American-owned organization to compete in F1 in 30 years, Ferrari-powered Haas F1 Team ended its season with a respectable eighth-place finish in the Constructor standings, outpacing the factory Renault team (ninth), Sauber (10th) and Manor (11th). The 29 points Haas F1 Team earned in 2016 are the most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came onto the scene in 2002, each entity managed only two point-paying finishes in their entire first seasons for a combined total of six points.

“I think we’re pretty happy with today,” said Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1. “We had a competitive car and we finished 11th and 12th, which mirrors the year. We finished the year on a high even if we didn’t get in the points. I felt that today we had one of our best races with both drivers just out of the points. This is a nice way to finish our first season. I’ll take this moment to say thank you to everybody, especially thanks to Gene for giving us this opportunity. Thanks to all the team who work so hard and thanks to both Romain and Esteban for their work all year long. Now we get ready for next year.”

The 2016 season-ender also marked the final Formula One race for two of the sport’s biggest starts _ Massa of Brazil and Englishman Jenson Button. Massa ended his 14-year F1 career with 250 starts, including 11 wins, 41 podiums, 16 poles and 937 laps-led.

Button concluded his 17-year F1 career with 305 starts, highlighted by the 2009 World Championship for Brawn GP and 15 wins, 50 podiums, eight poles and 761 laps-led. Button was credited with a 20th-place result at Abu Dhabi, where he was forced to the garage after 12 laps with a mechanical issue.

After thanking his British fans and the people back at the Mercedes factory, Hamilton dutifully acknowledged the new World Champion during the public interview session conducted by former F1 driver David Coulthard.

A big congratulations to Nico, of course, his first World Championship. Good job, man,” said Hamilton, who scored his 53rd career victory. Hamilton and Rosberg did exchange a handshake during the post-race public podium interview after zero interaction in the interview room prior to walking on-stage.

“Yeah, obviously happy with the win, it was relatively easy to get the win in the end,” Hamilton said. “I knew being in the lead I was losing the world championship; I was hoping that Sebastian…I heard the pace he was on and I knew I could do that pace exactly, so I was hoping that he would close up. But I guess he said his tires were going off towards the end and Nico drove well to not make mistakes.”

Vettel said he did all he could to avoid what turned out to be a winless 2016 season for the Scuderia. “It was tough out there in the last couple of laps,” Vettel said during the formal media interview session. “I didn’t want to be in his (Rosberg’s) shoes. I was trying to get close and have another go because I was thinking to, ‘Why not pass both of them, if Lewis is going that slow in front?’ But it was difficult because my tires were also dropping more to the end.

“My interest as soon as I passed Max was to win the race. But bearing in mind obviously that they are fighting for the Championship and…I mean we could all feel and see what was going on. Lewis was trying to back Nico up into the rest of the pack.”

To which Hamilton quickly added, “Just trying to help you out, buddy!”

Vettel: “Yeah, I’m sure you would have waved me past as well. As I said, my main interest was in winning the race but I couldn’t get past both of them.

“I think today is Nico’s day and it’s a sign of respect and greatness to give him that. I think we owe it to him, he’s a deserved champion.”

Hamilton made it clear he felt he was not jeopardizing his race result, Rosberg’s title prospect or his standing with Mercedes.  “I don’t think I did anything dangerous today,” Hamilton said. “So, I don’t feel I did anything unfair. We’re fighting for a championship, I was in the lead, I control the pace. That’s the rules.

“I don’t know why they didn’t just let us just race. There was never a moment where I felt I was going to lose the race. It’s a shame that they wouldn’t but it’s quite clear their thought process and yeah, I mean, I don’t really have much to say. There was never a moment that I felt that I was (at) risk.

“Not really…because it wasn’t really intense, to be honest. It was pretty chilled at the end. There was not much… maybe intense for you but it wasn’t intense for me. No. For me it’s…I’m in a position where I’ve obviously had a lot of points lost during the season so for me, I’m out there fighting and I generally never try to do anything to harm the team or the brand or anything like that. But we’ve won the Constructors’ Championship so it was down to me and Nico today. And however, they still felt they needed to make comments and so…well, y’know, we’ll discuss it afterwards as we always do as a team and pull back in.

“But we can’t let that overshadow the fact that Nico’s just won a Championship and the team has dominated all year long, we’d had more wins than any other team I think in the past maybe. So, we cannot ignore that fact that it’s been an incredibly successful year.”

During his late-season bid for a third consecutive championship and fourth overall, Hamilton qualified on-pole four consecutive times and won the last four races.

“I did everything that I could, particularly towards the end,” Hamilton said. “And obviously Nico had a very, very clean year without any real issues to be honest and that’s why we sit in this position right now. But he did a fantastic job, so big congratulations to him. It’s a great feeling to win the World Championship and I look forward to fighting with him next year.”

Rosberg said his championship drive was fueled by his fans worldwide, beginning with his native Germany. Rosberg is only the third German to win an F1 title, following in the footsteps of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and Vettel.

“That’s really, really special,” said Rosberg, who has started 206 grand prixs in his 11-year tenure, the highest number of career starts before becoming World Champion. “It’s a special feeling, a very unique feeling. It’s my whole team, which is my racing family. I joined Mercedes in 2010 and it was a rough ride initially and now it’s come good in the last years and now it’s come good for me today _ and that’s very, very special also. So, big thanks to my racing family, to Mercedes, to my family, to all of my team around me, working around me. Everybody has their part in this.”

Rosberg also said beating Hamilton _ acknowledged as one of F1’s all-timers _ for the title added to its significance.

“Yeah, for sure, it feels like I’ve been racing him forever and always he’s just managed to edge me out and get the title even when we were small in go-karts,” said Rosberg, who joined Hamilton (2014, 2015) and Juan Manuel Fangio (1954, 1955) as World Champions for Mercedes’ Silver Arrows. “He’s (Hamilton) just an amazing driver and of course one of the best in history so it’s unbelievably special to beat him because the level is so high and that makes this even more…for sure, so much more satisfying for me because the benchmark is so…and I took the World Championship away from him which is a phenomenal feeling.

“It’s been a great year as well, for sure he drove at an extremely high level. He’s done some incredible racing so he’s been a very, very tough competitor and I don’t know how many points we are apart at the end, you know, five points, which is unbelievable. With the same car.”

Asked if he has been given due credit for his driving skills, Rosberg replied, “I don’t drive for credit, I drive to win the World Championship. I have achieved that and it was my childhood dream to win the World Championship and that’s done and that’s what I’m excited about, and I look forward to celebrating with all the people who have been supporting me.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 28 2016
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