2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Lewis Hamilton Crowned Champion

Britain celebrated last night, as Lewis Hamilton delivered his second World Championship title. After understandably appearing tense throughout the weekend, Hamilton raced impeccably, jumping his teammate within the first fifty meters of the 55 lap race, following an incredible launch. As Nico Rosberg ran into technical trouble at the mid-way point of the race, Felipe Massa became Lewis’ prime challenger for the victory. However, the Brit kept everything under control, taking the chequered flag and with it, became a two time champion of the world.

Bitter Sweet For Mercedes

Understandably, the main focus for Mercedes throughout the weekend was on reliability. The W05 has been dubbed the most dominant car in the history of the sport, yet it has been far from infallible in the reliability stakes. It is important to remember that Mercedes’ involvement in Formula 1 is primarily, a brand exercise and as such, if stories of unreliability deciding the championship appeared on the Monday-morning front pages, Stuttgart would not be best pleased. Unfortunately for them, one of the championship contenders ran into technical trouble, yet fortunately for the boardroom, this has not stolen the headlines.
For Nico Rosberg, his title hopes were dashed early on in proceedings – within the first few meters in fact. Hamilton managed to achieve one of the greatest start’s I have seen in a long time, not just allowing him to take the lead, but allowing him to break the DRS before the end of the first sector of the opening lap. Hamilton was in control at the head of the pack and looked comfortable. He was on-course for the title when Nico suffered an ERS failure. 
The failure was critical for Rosberg – the loss of 160bhp clearly took its tole and the German quickly fell out of contention. At one point, his engine cut entirely for a few moments. It was heartbreaking to watch, as even the slimmest hopes of snatching the title slipped away from Rosberg. Ultimately, it is fair to say that without Nico’s issues, Hamilton would still have been crowned champion. For this fact, brand Mercedes have somewhat escaped what could have been an embarrassing headline in today’s papers. 
While an elated Hamilton stole the post-race show, I was hugely impressed with Rosberg’s reaction to defeat and he set a fine example to any budding racer or sportsman or woman in general. Magnanimous and classy, Nico met with Lewis prior to the podium celebrations, congratulating the man who he had fought so hard with all season. In an interview following the race, he also acknowledged that “the better man one” – sporting dignity at its finest. This all followed Nico’s defiance of his team in the final laps. When he was told to retire the car, in a move which was seemingly made by Mercedes to avoid having Hamilton lap his teammate, Rosberg stayed on the circuit, citing his desire to finish the race and finish the championship. 
All of these factors added to an incredible spectacle in Abu Dhabi. The race may have not delivered the wheel-to-wheel racing of Bahrain or the frantic finish of Hungary, but the season finale was a magnificent sporting spectacle. While it was disappointing to see Rosberg end his campaign limping rather than sprinting, the dynamic between the Mercedes duo was brilliant. I just wish I could have been in the Mercedes garage after the chequered flag to feel the atmosphere.

Williams Conquer The Prancing Horse

It has been on the cards since mid-season, but Williams’ 2014 resurgence has been rewarded in a well-deserved third place spot in the constructors championship. The team certainly ended their campaign in sublime style, securing their first double podium since Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber stood on the Monaco rostrum, back in 2005.
After keeping pace with the Mercedes throughout the opening exchanges, it looked likely that Felipe Massa would steal his first race win since the famous Brazilian Grand Prix of 2008, as Lewis Hamilton focused on his W05’s survival as oppose to the fast approaching Williams. It was a rare occasion in which Williams took the aggressive choice on strategy, after Felipe managed to extend his first and second stints, in order to run option tyres in the closing stages. Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas’ recovery from a dreadful start was also orchestrated by the pit-wall.
It was a magnificent team performance, which optimized what Williams have been about this season – a hugely popular team, working in unison with unbelievable focus on the same goal. 2014 has centered around beating Ferrari and in doing so, moral this winter should be as high as ever. Judging by their development throughout the year, it seems as though if anyone is about to challenge Mercedes supremacy in 2015, it will be Williams and in Massa and Bottas, the team have the drivers in which to do so.    

Button Brings Home The Bacon

The fact that we may have witnessed Jenson Button’s final race yesterday is hugely frustrating – a World Champion not being able to say goodbye to his adoring fans seems flawed, yet the situation at McLaren has become a saga as oppose to a story. However, if yesterday’s performances were to have any bearing on the outcome of the debate, Button has surely bought himself a fast track to a 2015 seat.
With Kevin Magnussen being beaten by both Force India’s and slipping out of the points scoring positions, Jenson Button’s P5 became massively significant, as it secured P5 in the constructors for the Woking based team. Had he suffered the same fate as Magnussen, Force India would have been celebrating an unexpected rise to their best ever constructors championship finish. If it is the cost of Jenson which is influencing the team’s decision, then his counter-argument will now be the potential cost of not having him in the team.

An Unlikely Success Story

Merely arriving in Abu Dhabi was a success story in itself for ‘crowdfunded’ Caterham, but throughout the weekend, the team certainly acquitted themselves very well indeed. Despite the logistical nightmares faced in the weeks prior to the event and the skeleton staff, full of parachuted-in personnel, processes were evidently followed and the outfit did not look out of place.
While Kamui Kobayashi was forced into retirement, Will Stevens achieved his ultimate aim by finishing the race and gaining vital experience which will certainly look impressive on his CV. Despite a slight run-in with Fernando Alonso, Stevens drove a comfortable race and in a modern age where testing is limited, 55 laps of practice is crucial and will hopefully be a huge boost to his confidence.  

Conclusions

Driver of the Day
Lewis Hamilton
Pressure, pressure, pressure – Lewis Hamilton soaked it up like a sponge throughout the evening. Not only did he manage to perform a near perfect launch, but he also faced the tension of knowing that one W05 had been struck down by technical technicalities. With memories of Canada flooding back, he not only won the race, but won the race while putting as minimal strain on his fallible Mercedes. Lewis played and percentage game and still won for the eleventh time this year – and took the championship title. 

Race Result
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Felipe Massa Williams
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
5 Jenson Button McLaren
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
7 Sergio Perez Force India
8 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
9 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
10 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
11 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus
14 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber
17 Will Stevens Caterham
RET Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
RET Pastor Maldonado Lotus
RET Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso

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