Nico Rosberg was crowned 2016 Formula One champion on Sunday after a second-place finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix secured top spot in the drivers' standings, where he finished five points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton kept Rosberg at arm's reach, reneging on team orders to speed up his efforts in an attempt to increase his team-mate's chance of missing out on the top-three finish he needed to secure the title—but to no avail.
It was a long and tense end to the season for Rosberg, but he eventually showed his excitement at a maiden Formula One championship, per Mercedes AMG's official Twitter account:
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished third and fourth, respectively, despite their best efforts to stop Rosberg clinching his maiden world championship 34 years after his father, Keke, pulled off the same feat.
It was a dour day for Jenson Button of McLaren, however, after he was forced into retirement earlier than hoped following a suspension failure just 13 laps into his Abu Dhabi outing.
Here's a look at the final classification from the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, provided courtesy of Formula One's official Twitter account:
And here's how the final drivers' standings look at the end of the 2016 campaign:
|2016 Formula 1 Final Drivers' Standings|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||256|
|5||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||204|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India||101|
|9||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||72|
|12||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||46|
|14||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||25|
|19||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing||1|
Both Hamilton and Rosberg got off to solid starts on Sunday as Kimi Raikkonen took his place behind the front-runners, but a spin from Verstappen added some early drama to events.
The Dutchman can always be relied upon to bring a bit of spice to proceedings, and Formula One writer Chris Medland saw the development as a positive in terms of the competition it brought to the fore:
The Red Bull starlet went about reviving his race from way back in 22nd and was making good progress, too, making his way up to 13th by the time the race was into its sixth lap.
Meanwhile, Renault's Kevin Magnussen was the first early retirement of the day due to front-wing damage, and F1 on NBC Sports noted that also brought about the end of his time with the manufacturer:
Valtteri Bottas was the next to be forced into an early exit, thus meaning any chance Williams had of leapfrogging Force India into fourth in the constructors' standings rested solely on Felipe Massa in his last F1 outing.
And the retirement didn't end there, either, as British fans were dealt a blow after learning one of their own, Button, had suffered a suspension failure that meant an underwhelming end to his career, per Sky Sports F1:
Compatriot Hamilton was busy making major progress elsewhere, however, and continued to set fastest lap times with Rosberg and Raikkonen in pursuit, although it wasn't long until Verstappen waded his way into the race for second.
All the top guns pitted early on to transition to softs, and Rosberg began to show glimpses of his championship credentials around 30 laps into the action:
But the contention for top spot was widespread, with Vettel, Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen and Red Bull star Daniel Ricciardo all vying for the top places.
Rosberg's pit on the 30th lap opened the way for Vettel to become the first non-Mercedes driver to lead the race, while the Red Bull pair of Verstappen and Ricciardo, simmering around fifth and sixth, were the fastest pair on the track.
It was near the climax of the 42nd lap that Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz was hit from behind by Renault's Jolyon Palmer, a clash that eventually forced the former out of contention with gearbox damage.
Vettel ultimately sacrificed his lead to change onto the supersofts heading into the race's final 10 laps, leaving Hamilton to reclaim his lead, although Pirelli affirmed the German's decision was a logical one:
Hamilton was once again flying far ahead of Rosberg, with Verstappen and Ricciardo behind, in that order, and it seemed only a matter of just how far the standings leader would finish behind his Mercedes team-mate.
The Briton's tactics were to keep a gap between him and Rosberg, but not so much of a distance that his peers didn't have a chance of overtaking the German, thus increasing his chances of retaining his world title. Hamilton's focus was unshakeable, too, as noted by German outlet DW Sports:
Mercedes did their best from the garage to ensure Rosberg had a fair shot at the 2016 title, although Hamilton didn't appear intent on paying his warnings much heed with mere seconds separating the top three:
Rosberg could have risked his top-three status and made the plunge for first, but cooler heads prevailed—even if chatter on the team radio suggested otherwise—as he sealed second to claim the global crown at the age of 31.
Hamilton may have his share of questions to answer from Mercedes and whether his performance benefited the team at all, but Rosberg will care little in the end after scooping his first world title.