dignified, a man quitting while he was
ahead in the best possible sense of the
word. Having achieved his ultimate goal,
Rosberg has other things in his life and
now has the time and space for them.
Perhaps the sad fate of his old friend and
teammate, Michael Schumacher, will have
made him realize the importance of that.
The far more interesting question
surrounds the nature of his world
championship victory. Here, it’s important
to set the foundations of any debate.
History shows that it’s entirely possible
for luck to play a part, to not be the best
individual performer of the season and be
a worthy champion. It’s called the Drivers’
Championship, but it’s not simply about
the best driver of the year; it’s the one
who gets the best results, the most points.
The fact is, Rosberg was not the
outstanding driver of 2016. There is no
shame in that, for there are some great
drivers in grand prix racing. Lewis
Hamilton was, by a small but clear
margin, the superior Mercedes driver.
And to acknowledge that is not to
denounce Rosberg, merely to state a fact.
As Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said of
Hamilton after the Abu Dhabi GP,
“Malaysia cost him the championship”.
Hamilton was on the receiving end of
almost half of the serious technical
problems suffered by a Mercedes engine
(that’s including the three customer
teams) and the Malaysia failure wasn’t
the only time he lost points. Rosberg
occasionally had problems, but the most
serious was a five-place grid penalty for a
gearbox change at the Austrian GP, a race
he still almost won. And the bottom line
is that reliability was the difference that
swung things in favor of Rosberg, whose
performance level relative to Hamilton
wasn’t dramatically different to what
we’ve seen over the preceding seasons.
None of this, however, is to denounce
Rosberg. He won nine grands prix, had a
few slices of bad luck of his own, and has
consistently been fast enough to give
Hamilton plenty to worry about.
There was one key difference in
Rosberg this season. Previously, he’d
struggled to regain momentum when
it had turned against him during a
campaign. And sure enough in 2016,
after reeling off four wins from the first
four races, prior to he and Hamilton
wiping each other out on the first lap of
the Spanish GP, things started to unravel.
It started with a lackluster performance
at Monaco, fading to seventh, then
continued to his clumsy, last-lap attempt
to hold onto the lead and subsequent
collision with Hamilton in Austria. Sure
For those folks griping
that Nico Rosberg’s
nine wins to Lewis
Hamilton’s 10 devalues
his championship, he’s
not the first to win it in
such a way – far from
it. Ironically, Hamilton’s
first championship in
2008 (ABOVE) was
achieved with five wins
to runner-up Felipe
Massa’s six. And in
Alain Prost edged his
Ayrton Senna, four
wins to six, to give just
a couple of examples.
Hamilton backs up
Nico Rosberg in the
Abu Dhabi finale, but
Rosberg handles the
After, Hamilton was
first to congratulate
the new champion.