Last weekend’s Duel in the Desert proved to be, beyond any doubt, one of the most nail-biting Formula 1 races in the last three years. Lewis Hamilton’s devious tactics of deliberately driving slowly in an attempt to ruin Nico Rosberg’s day nearly paid off when Ferrari put Sebastian Vettel on a blinding strategy. In the end, a calm and composed drive from Rosberg ultimately sealed his maiden championship – but was he really the deserving champion as a whole?
Firstly, of the record breaking 21 races in 2016, Hamilton won ten to Rosberg’s nine. When adding podiums to the tally, Hamilton again comes out on top, 17 podiums to Rosberg’s 16. This was impressive considering Hamilton had one less race to achieve this, with two DNFs for Hamilton, but one for Rosberg. Hamilton now holds the record for the most victories in a single season without winning the World Championship.
But in reality, statistics can not tell the story of the season – as the matter lies deeper with Lewis’s constant accusations of an unreliability. Even after losing the championship to Rosberg on Sunday, he had the balls to remark on the podium: “we had a lot of problems this year, and that’s inevitably why I’m in this position.” In fairness, unreliability did plague Lewis Hamilton throughout this year – factors out of his control affected him in China, Russia, Belgium and Malaysia.
In China, he started at the rear of the grid after a problem with his MGU-H section of his power unit. He would finish the race in 7th – but this position could have been higher had he not made contact on lap 1 of the Grand Prix. This makes it hard to prove if any reliability actually cost him. In Russia, the same problem with the MGU-H occurred at the beginning of Q3, leaving Hamilton to start 10th. He would finish the race in 2nd anyway and therefore this shouldn’t really be counted. Belgium was inevitably going to happen, Hamilton took an onslaught of engine penalties and started 22nd. The overtaking nature of the track and a well timed safety car ensured Hamilton finished 3rd. Lastly, Malaysia doesn’t need any introduction, a dreadfully timed power unit failure on lap 42 of the race cost Hamilton a certain race win – and 25 points.
So yes, Hamilton did lose a lot of points to unreliability, most of them in Malaysia, but when deciding a champion, it should really come down to who acts like a champion. In Baku, Lewis Hamilton found himself in the wrong engine mode, which heavily compromised his performance. Instead of keeping a cool head, he began to rant angrily, telling the team “I might not finish this race because I’m going to change every switch.” It has also recently come to light that Hamilton (allegedly) handed his resignation in to Mercedes following the Spanish Grand Prix crash – It is hard to view this reaction as mature behavior.
In Malaysia, Hamilton also sparked a media frenzy post race when he accused “someone or something” of not wanting him to win the World Championship. Hamilton claims these incidents occurred “in the heat of the moment,” – but he is not the only driver to have a season-ending failure…
In 2014, Nico Rosberg had a 22 point gap to Lewis Hamilton heading into the Singapore Grand Prix. However, unreliability ruled Rosberg out of the race and left Hamilton to win it comfortably. This gave Hamilton a lead in the championship, one he wouldn’t give up for the remaining races in the season – leaving him as the 2014 champion. A point of difference between these two instances was Rosberg’s response, no wild accusations were made toward the team, instead he said “it was just a bad day.” Although both races ended their respective championship bids – Rosberg kept his cool under the media attention and grit his teeth.
Rosberg also proved throughout 2016 with several instances that he could be the better man. Without delay in Monaco, he let Hamilton through, he never complained about the controversial start in Canada, accepted his harsh penalty in Germany, and never lost his composure when he was punted off at Turn 1 in Malaysia.
So despite statistics pointing to Lewis Hamilton as the deserving champion, it was really Nico Rosberg who proved the true champion throughout 2016. All of these selfless acts ultimately led to Rosberg becoming the deserving 2016 Formula One World Champion – I hope the champagne tastes as good as it looks!