The modern, V6 turbocharged hybrid era of Formula One has been absolutely dominated by Mercedes and their superb machines – the W05 Hybrid through to the current challenger, the W07 Hybrid. With Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo now 101 points behind with just 100 left on the table, the 2016 Formula One World Champion will be either Nico Rosberg’s or reigning champion Lewis Hamilton’s. Whichever one of these two men walks away as champion – for the first time in the case of Rosberg or for a fourth time in the case of Hamilton – absolutely deserves it.
Whoever is the 2016 Formula One World Champion Deserves it
The rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg has never been the warmest of relationships since Hamilton moved to Mercedes to partner Rosberg – who had been at Mercedes alongside Michael Schumacher since 2010. Mercedes suffered from trouble with looking after tyres in 2013, which saw both drivers take pole positions, victories and podiums but were unable to sustain a title challenge to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel. In 2014, Hamilton overcame poor qualifying and a few reliability problems to take the title from Rosberg – who suffered from a number of reliability problems himself in the races including the title decider.
In 2015, Rosberg continued to suffer from reliability problems in the races, but he was simply second-best to Hamilton at the end of the day. However, Rosberg was able to find form at the end of 2015, winning each of the last three races, and looked to try and carry that momentum into 2016. One of the few rule changes made over the winter was to give more control at the start to the drivers, and whilst neither Hamilton nor Rosberg have been particularly revered for their starts previously, it would be the German who would handle this small detail better than his British team mate in 2016.
A picture of Nico Rosberg’s title hopes… https://t.co/0EA6Av4ctY
— Craig Woollard (@Craig_O_F1) September 6, 2015
The story of the season is fairly clear by now – Rosberg was able to win the first four races whilst Hamilton suffered from poor starts, and later qualifying issues which saw him start down the field. In fact, neither car started brilliantly at Australia, as both were swarmed by Vettel – now with Ferrari. The two wiped each other out at Spain in what was a racing incident, before Hamilton would strike back at Monaco, capitalising from a huge error by Red Bull. Hamilton would beat Vettel on strategy at Canada whilst Rosberg would suffer with a puncture and later a spin, before capitalising on a costly crash by Hamilton at Azerbaijan.
Hamilton would win the next four races prior to the summer break, after a gearbox penalty, brake problems and another clash between the two Mercedes cost Rosberg the win at Austria. A gearbox glitch cost Rosberg at Britain, whilst being bettered at the start at Hungary and having a very poor getaway before a harsh penalty for overtaking Max Verstappen cost Rosberg at Germany.
The reliability problems at the start of the year bit Hamilton again at the next round at Spa, however due to a loophole in the rules; he was able to stockpile power units. A timely red flag helped Hamilton minimise the damage there. Another slow start cost the Briton at Italy, whilst a very poor performance cost him dear at Singapore, where Rosberg expertly fended off Ricciardo. Both drivers would suffer from bad luck at Malaysia – Rosberg being clobbered by Vettel at the start, and Hamilton suffering from an engine failure whilst in the lead. Rosberg would recover to a fine third.
At Japan – Hamilton suffered from his worst start of the season and could recover only to third, whilst Rosberg would go to win his ninth race of the season, putting him in a position where he only needs to finish second in every race to secure the championship. However whilst on paper that seems fairly simple, in reality – with Mercedes only enjoying four 1-2 finishes this season, it is far from a forgone conclusion, but right now it is certainly looking good for Rosberg.
Hamilton’s status as one of F1’s all-time greats is hardly up for discussion – three World Championships with two different teams, and rapidly closing in on the likes of Schumacher, Prost and Senna at the very top of the tree in the record books. Whilst this season has been far from vintage Hamilton, the fact that he is still in with a shout of this championship shows just how good he can be. Had Hamilton been at his best this season – whether he is ‘distracted’ or not is up for discussion – then he would have probably been at the top of the championship standings despite the costly reliability problems.
Meanwhile, this season has seen a far more aggressive, feisty, consistent Nico Rosberg, and that is something the neutral has been crying out for a number of years now. His bold move at the start of the Australian Grand Prix on his team mate set the tone for much of the rest of the season. Rosberg nailed his starts more often than not, and when he didn’t, he rarely let that get to him. Granted, victories were made easier in some races by the issues suffered by his team mate, but he got the job done. Rosberg’s only real weakness this season has been arguably being too aggressive (in which some of the penalties given have been completely unjustified), and his prowess in the wet – most notably at Monaco.
However, where Rosberg has notably improved over time has been in his ability to control races. The Rosberg of 2014 would often make mistakes and would be pounced on by his rivals, but we have not seen much of that in 2016 – Singapore is a fine example. He has also shown an ability to overtake – something else he was criticised for, and his recovery at Malaysia without the help of safety cars or red flags was the drive of somebody who deserves to win a championship.
Despite Rosberg doing only what he needs to do in terms of winning a lot of races and beating the guy in the other car, he has continued to come under criticism, some of which seems unnecessary. Absolutely absurd claims of sabotage have had to repeatedly be shunned, and some will argue that this would make Rosberg an unworthy champion. By such logic, that would render a number of past champions in the sport supposedly unworthy of the accolade. At the end of the day, the driver with the most points wins the championship (unless the points system has a ‘best of x races system’ as was the case before 1990) and whether you’ve had a bit more bad luck than the guy in the only other identical car as you or not is all part of Formula One, and that has been the case ever since the World Championship started back in 1950.
Non-scores due to mechanical problems:
ROS 3 – 0 HAM
ROS 3 – 2 HAM
ROS 2 – 1 HAM
ROS 0 – 1 HAM
— Craig Woollard (@Craig_O_F1) October 2, 2016
Both Hamilton and Rosberg are two of the finest drivers on the grid, in by far the most competitive car on the grid and continue to be separated by very little. We all must give Mercedes a lot of credit for allowing these two titans to race fairly, instead of having a clear-cut number one and number two system which spoiled so many seasons in the past. Neither driver has been the best on the grid in 2016 – nor the same can be said of both 2014 and 2015, but in F1, it is as much about machine as it is man (or woman), and a bit of luck as well. Whichever man becomes the 2016 Formula One World Champion, he will be deserving of such a feat.