ABU DHABI • Germany's Nico Rosberg celebrated his first Formula One world championship yesterday after finishing runner-up in a tense Abu Dhabi Grand Prix won by Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton amid accusations of "dirty tricks".
After all the suspense and expectation, Hamilton took his 10th win of the season, and his fourth in a row, but was powerless to do anything about the championship outcome despite making every effort.
His attempt to push Rosberg into the clutches of those behind him, by deliberately slowing the pace in the closing laps to the concern of team bosses, produced a nail-biting finish with the top four separated by just 1.6 seconds.
"Lewis, this is Paddy, we need you to pick up the pace to win this race," the team's technical head Paddy Lowe told the Briton over the team radio.
Replied Hamilton: "Right now, I'm losing the world championship so I'm not bothered if I'm going to lose the race."
2016 F1 FINAL STANDINGS
1. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes 385pts
2. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes 380
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 256
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 212
5. Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 204
6. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 186
1. Mercedes 765
2. Red Bull 468
3. Ferrari 398
4. Force India 173
5. Williams 138
ABU DHABI GP PODIUM
1. Hamilton 1hr 38min 04.013sec
2. Rosberg +0.439
3. Vettel +0.843
The Briton crossed the line 0.4 seconds ahead of Rosberg with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in third place, a further 0.4sec behind.
The frosty atmosphere between the pair as they waited for the podium ceremony spoke volumes, with Rosberg hoisting the sport's 86-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone into the air but ignoring Hamilton.
There was minimal eye contact between them, let alone a handshake.
The hug, the handshakes and a word of congratulation, eventually came on the podium.
"That was definitely not the most enjoyable race I've ever had... really not very enjoyable, those last laps," said Rosberg in podium interviews conducted by former F1 racer David Coulthard.
"I'm glad it's over, and I am ecstatic. It was really intense and tough out there."
SURVIVING THE 'DIRTY TRICKS'
That was definitely not the most enjoyable race I've ever had... really not very enjoyable, those last laps.
NICO ROSBERG , who won his first world title with a five-point margin, referring to Lewis Hamilton's controversial tactic of slowing down the race in the final laps.
Rosberg, who had needed only to finish in the top three to be sure of the title, settled into second at the start as Hamilton streaked clear but the Briton's strategy was immediately apparent.
He made little effort to build up a commanding lead, knowing that his only hope of becoming Britain's first four-time champion depended on denying Rosberg clear air and allowing rivals to get close enough to pass him.
"It was tricky at the end there with Lewis playing some dirty tricks," commented four-time champion Vettel over the radio.
Rosberg, who becomes his country's third champion after Michael Schumacher and Vettel, held his nerve and position just as he has throughout a season in which he has insisted on taking one race at a time.
As he crossed the line, the son of 1982 title-winner Keke Rosberg let out a whoop of relief and joy as he became only the second son of a world champion, after Britain's Damon Hill, to take the crown.
In another emotional touch, the tearful 31-year-old's wife Vivian spoke to him over the team radio on his slowing-down lap to tell him how proud she was.
His own pride was equally evident. "I am very proud to have done the same feat as my dad achieved," said Rosberg.
At the same time, Hamilton knew he would have to explain himself to unimpressed team bosses.
"We first have to speak to him to get an explanation," said Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda. "We tried to tell him the danger was coming because Vettel had the fastest car at the end. Thank God it worked out in the end."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN