Nico Rosberg ended his 2015 season in triumph on Sunday when he completed a hat-trick of victories in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes team-mate and world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The 30-year-old German, who has produced remarkable dominant form since seeing Hamilton secure his third drivers’ title at last month’s United States Grand Prix, made a perfect start from his sixth successive pole position and, pit-stops apart, was in control all the way.
Rosberg, eight seconds clear of Hamilton, celebrated his sixth win of the year and the 14th of his career. It was his first success at the Yas Marina circuit where Hamilton beat him in 2014 to take his second title.
Hamilton won 10 races this year, but on Sunday was unable to rediscover the form that carried him to the championship.
Rosberg was understandably delighted.
“Austin was the low point of the season for me,” he said. “But since then I’ve come back a lot stronger. Next season can start tomorrow for me! I don’t need any holidays.
“Thanks to my team for my stunning car. I’m ecstatic. It’s always tough to race Lewis, it’s a great battle internally for us…”
Asked if he was now ready to go for dinner with Hamilton and discuss the season past, Rosberg gave an enigmatic grin and reply.
“Let’s leave that,” he said. “Maybe we’ll see each other in the Amber Lounge (post-race party) afterwards.”
Hamilton was magnanimous in defeat, a result controlled and orchestrated by the Mercedes pit-wall team, who made clear that a one-two result was their priority and did not want to take any serious risks.
“Firstly, it has been an amazing year. I am happy,” said Hamilton.
“Now we can really enjoy it, but I have to take my hat off to the team, who have done an amazing job with this car. We’ve shown that Mercedes is the best team in the world.
“They’ve surpassed expectations throughout the year. In hindsight, once Nico had pitted today I probably would have backed off a bit and gone a bit longer.
“As that didn’t work out, the stop, going too long was probably not the right thing to do, but we gave it a try…”
Finn Kimi Raikkonen finished third ahead of his Ferrari team-mate, four-time former champion Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez of Force India.
“We started better this season,” said Raikkonen.
“But it’s not been an ideal year. The speed has been there, but there have been mistakes and problems. Today was a bit better, but obviously not enough to beat these two.”
The Mercedes team’s one-two finish carried their points total to a record 703 for the season, more than the 701 they accumulated last year when the final race was awarded double points.
Hamilton finished on 381 points, with Rosberg on 322.
Rosberg signalled his and Mercedes’ awareness of the threat from Ferrari.
“I am sure it’s going to be another great season next year, but of course we are aware of the threat from the red guys. I will try to keep it going for the start of next year. We don’t want to let them get too close.”
Daniel Ricciardo was sixth for Red Bull ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the second Force India, Felipe Massa of Williams, Romain Grosjean who marked his last race for Lotus with a surge to ninth and Daniil Kvyat in the second Red Bull.
When the lights went out, Rosberg made a perfect start while Hamilton struggled to stay with him and had to engage his best defensive driving to retain second place.
Behind the two silver arrows, the luckless Fernando Alonso suffered a puncture in a collision with Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus, for which he was regarded as the guilty party, and given a drive-through penalty, taken after his necessary pit-stop for repairs. Maldonado was eliminated.
Rosberg led before making his first stop after 11 laps. Hamilton led briefly before he followed him in.
Under the desert floodlights Rosberg had enough up his sleeve to hold off Hamilton in the second round of pit stops to end the season in style and give him plenty of confidence for 2016.