Lewis Hamilton led teammate Nico Rosberg home at the Abu Dhabi grand prix, but lost the 2016 drivers’ championship
Lewis Hamilton won the last grand prix run on the current Pirelli Formula One tyre range in Abu Dhabi, but was pipped to the drivers’ championship by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who finished second, using identical two-stop strategies. The tyre supplier called the Yas Marina-hosted grand prix “the last race in the era of deliberately high tyre degradation”, with its latest, larger range of P Zero slicks and Cinturato wets unveiled in the emirate before the weekend’s racing began. The final development test for the 2017 will begin on Tuesday, 29 November, with Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari appearing on track together in modified 2015 mule cars.
In the season closing Abu Dhabi grand prix, both Mercedes drivers used an identical two-stop strategy, starting on the ultrasoft and then changing twice to the soft within a single lap of each other on both occasions. A different strategy was adopted by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who used all three compounds: starting on the ultrasoft, switching to the soft and then ending the race on the supersoft. Vettel was the fastest man on the track in the closing stages, moving up the leaderboard to threaten the leaders and provide a dramatic finish to the race.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director, said: “The decision taken by Red Bull yesterday to start on the supersoft was pivotal to the race today, with Max Verstappen making the most of a creative one-stop strategy to challenge the two-stoppers. Sebastian Vettel also capitalised on the performance of the supersoft to move up in the closing stages.”
The only drivers in the top 10 not to start on the ultrasoft were the two Red Bull drivers. Despite a spin at the start of the race following contact, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was able to climb to second overall before making his single stop. Verstappen was the only one of frontrunners to stop just once, maximising his first supersoft stint to gain track position and eventually finish fourth.
“Congratulations to Nico Rosberg for winning his first world title, and we’d also like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to Felipe Massa and Jenson Button, who both ended their fantastic Formula One careers today. Now that the 2016 season is over, our focus already switches to next year – starting on Tuesday, when we undertake our final development test for the new 2017 wider tyres, using all three mule cars together for the first time.”
Pirelli’s next wider generation of tyres is designed to provide less degradation, introducing a new tyre philosophy to F1. The manufacturer believes the extra performance and grip should lead to substantial reductions in lap times.