Cast your mind back to the podium anteroom after the recent United States Grand Prix in Austin. That in which Nico Rosberg threw his cap at his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton after the latter had made his latest world championship official (thanks in part to a Nico error giving him the win). The footage has been oft-repeated of course, and was interpreted as somehow summing up in Nico a man bewildered, perhaps broken. But in the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix he enacted a hat-trick of much the better sort from his point of view, ending the 2015 campaign with three victories on the bounce.
The cap-tossing incident was just over a month ago, which underlines that even in its current apparent state of drift F1 can change beyond recognition very quickly. Nico literally hasn’t stopped winning since.
Nico controls things like before
His latest win had a strong family resemblance with the previous ones. Nico took yet another pole position – his sixth on the spin – and this one probably was the most impressive of the lot as he beat Lewis by a full four tenths. Then as in the previous wins Nico retained the lead at the start and controlled things ahead of Lewis from there.
Even like in the Brazil race last time out there was an intra-Merc strategy fuss. It wasn’t quite the same, as it appeared this time that Mercedes did allow its cars to diverge in approach. Still Lewis’s alternative strategy seemed odd, particularly as it gave him a lot to do and not enough time in which to do it in the final laps. Though just as in Brazil it wasn’t at all clear if Lewis had enough to usurp Nico anyway.
And with it all the biggest story of the last part of the F1 season – that of whither Nico – continued. Now it’ll likely continue through the months of the off-season too. You’ll have to get used to it.
Setting us up for a 2016 fight
As has been noted everyone has a theory – and apparently a different theory – on why Nico all of a sudden has the edge, and this time we even had one more added to it, with Lewis saying after the race that he was “looking forward to next year, to come back fit and healthy”. Suddenly ears pricked up – was Lewis suggesting he’d been carrying an illness lately?
But whatever is the case we’ll enter the new 2016 season with the real potential of a credible fight between the two Mercedes pilots. Another thing that looked impossible in that Austin anteroom.
Perhaps it’s just as well too as in another parallel with Brazil the sport not serving much up in entertainment was exposed pitilessly again in Abu Dhabi. Particularly the cars not being able to get close enough to each other to race and that the pattern of Mercedes – gap – Ferrari – gap – the rest is one set in stone. Big changes won’t come until 2017 and even there we might doubt they’ll be the right ones. But at least in the resurgent Nico Rosberg F1 has one good news story.