2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Rosberg secures maiden hat-trick

Following a sublime sixth pole position in succession for Nico Rosberg, the championship runner-up carried his rich vein of form into the race, as he once again left Lewis Hamilton trailing home in second.

A position that the three time world champion has become all too familiar with since the crowning-glory of Austin and while his primary objective for the year may have been long secured, Rosberg has provided himself with the perfect launch-pad into the winter and the 2016 campaign beyond.

Sprint Finish

The final laps of the 2015 season were poised to provide quite the showdown between the two Mercedes runners. Nico Rosberg was once again imperious in front, dominating the race after yet another impressive Saturday demonstration. As such, Lewis Hamilton’s hand was rather forced – in order to snatch victory away from his chief rival, he had to opt for an abstract strategy.

Mercedes have been reluctant to affect the duel between their two chargers via strategic differences all season long. However, mid-way through the race, it appeared that this mentality had been quashed, in favour of providing the fans an enthralling final few laps. Hamilton extended his middle stint to reduce his mileage following his last stop.

Curiously, the Englishman opted for the soft compound tyre as oppose to the faster super-soft for his late charge, in what has been deemed a mutual decision, agreed upon by team and driver.

The fear of graining on the softest compound was the pivotal factor, yet it meant that Hamilton was eventually hindered by a ‘nothing’ strategy. Going onto the soft tyres for the last 13 laps left Lewis with too much ground to make up. Had he been on the super-soft instead, Rosberg’s lead may not have been insurmountable – assuming of course that Hamilton’s rubber did not fall foul of the type of graining that Sebastian Vettel faced into the last handful of laps.

Ultimately, it was Rosberg’s pace, particularly in the laps prior to his teammate’s final trip to the pits, which sealed the victory. Once again, the German had the measure of the three time champion all weekend, with his sensational qualifying effort providing all the evidence necessary to suggest that Rosberg is not a defeated man.

His 14th career win and the first time he has secured three victories in succession. If he carries his end of season form into 2016, then Hamilton will have his work cut out next year. Rosberg has simply been better as 2015 has drawn to a close.

Contra-Strategy

With both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean starting the race out of position following dire qualifying results, contra-strategies provided an intriguing dynamic during the 55 laps.

Both opted to start on the soft compound tyre and therefore, run further into the race while making the most of clean air at the end of the opening stint. Vettel and Grosjean both executed this strategy ploy very well, with Sebastian eventually passing Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez in the final phases to elevate himself into fourth, in what he described as the “best possible result” having climbed 11 places from the grid. Meanwhile, Grosjean managed to secure ninth place and two points on his final outing for Lotus.

It was a popular result from one of the paddock’s most popular personalities, in a weekend which opitimised the Frenchman’s time at the Enstone squad – full of highs and lows and far from short on emotion.

Forcing The Issue

Sergio Perez was nothing short of spectacular throughout the weekend, as he capitalised on a strong qualifying performance to secure a solid fifth place finish and bag an extra 10 points for Force India. The cherry on top of the cake for a team who have enjoyed one of their most fruitful campaigns to date.

With Nico Hulkenberg battling against understeer all evening, the German was good value for his seventh place. Both Force India’s managed to finish ahead of both Williams, on a weekend where they were unmistakably the third fastest team.

A phenomenal effort and one which justifies claims that Force India are pound-for-pound one of the category’s elite teams.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day

Jenson Button

Following a year where the Brit has demonstrated admirable resilience, he produced a performance which will spur McLaren Honda on this winter. It may not have yielded points, but with Button able to battle his rivals, glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel are beginning to burst into view.

Overtake of the Race

VERSTAPPEN vs Ericsson

Usually, drivers will wait until the DRS activation point before making a move, but for Max Verstappen, the detection point was seemingly the place to pass at Yas Marina. His pass on the inside of Marcus Ericsson at the hairpin was a sensational piece of improvisation.

It’s only a matter of time until this particular segment is renamed “Max’s Mighty Move of the Race”

Team of the Weekend

Force India

The VJM08 has grown into the season, from arriving late to challenging even the likes of Ferrari in the final rounds. The team have been sublime and 2016 promises to be a strong campaign, assuming that the Cologne wind-tunnel continues to benefit on-track performance.

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