It was built-up as the greatest showdown in Formula 1 for recent years. With both Mercedes drivers competing for the title , it came down to 55 laps around the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi to decide who would take the crown. Would it be Lewis Hamilton - looking for his second World Championship and only the fourth Briton to do so, or would it be Nico Rosberg, looking for his maiden title.
The long-term friendship between the two teammates appeared long gone after this season. The controversial events of Spa and Monaco caused "crisis" talks to be held by Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff.
It was the 21st century "Senna V Prost" battle that F1 fanatics couldn't take their eyes off. However, despite all the scenarios planned out , no one saw the race effectively wrapped up by Turn 1.
Lewis Hamilton got off to a textbook start - "the best of my career" - he claimed, and there will be questions whether a start like that will ever be replicated again. Hamilton's reactions to the lights going out was just 0.2 seconds (a mere 0.6 shy off Usain Bolt's 100M record reaction time) that saw him explode off the line, leaving Rosberg for dust. By the time they arrived at Turn 1 , Hamilton was already multiple car lengths clear.
The great battle of Bahrain was what fans and no doubt the drivers themselves (secretly) would've wanted but sadly it wasn't to be. Rosberg suffered massive power issues with the loss of ERS (the electronic recovery system from the hybrid section of the Mercedes, resulting in a loss of 160 BHP).
This resulted in him drifting away from both Hamilton and the title rapidly, as well as moving his way down the pack. The team-radio could offer no help - simply instructing him to "drive flat out". But they and Nico knew it was all over for him. Lewis was informed with more than 10 laps to go that "Nico is no longer a threat" after he'd slipped way out of his minimum finishing position required to still be in with a shot.
To add more misery, Hamilton lapped Rosberg in the concluding stages.
It's at this point that we saw real professionalism from Rosberg and why he's possibly regained some respect back from fans who've labelled him a cheat and the "panto-villain" of the grid. The team ordered him to "box" with 4 laps remaining, claiming there to be too many problems with the car. Rosberg overruled this decision , insisting "I want to go to the end".
This attitude should be credited. The race and championship was wrapped up and Nico could easily have gone into the garage. Yet that's not Nico's style. He wanted to remain out on track and get to the end, more for himself to say I didn't give in.
This professionalism continued immediately after the race, heading straight for the Driver's room to congratulate his team-mate and champion Lewis Hamilton. A warm embrace between the two showed possible bridges rebuilt in a long friendship but also great sportsmanship and respect from Nico towards the victor.
Rosberg addressed his fans via a social media video saying : "Lewis deserved to win today. He was the best driver this year."
"I really wanted it be a fight right until the end. It's been a great great battle, that's what I race for. Unfortunately that was taken away from me but either way Lewis deserves to be champion. We had a great car and it's been a great a really great season with the Silver Arrows".
Rosberg is looking to next year already, highlighting he's been better than Lewis in qualifying for the past two years, and just needs to find the problem when it comes to race day. He was adamant that he would find the problem.
So for Lewis Hamilton then, it's "the greatest day of my life", just behind Sir Jackie Stewart in number of titles, and he even had the Royal seal of approval from Prince Harry, labelling him "an absolute legend". Is there a possible Knighthood on the cards?
For Nico, total devastation that he wasn't able to at least challenge in Abu Dhabi, but his attitude towards Lewis should be applauded. Looking to March 2015, and at the starting grid in Melbourne, as Nico perfectly put it: "It's all out attack".
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