Race winner Hamilton accused of ‘dirty tricks’ strategy in 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 teammate Lewis Hamilton amid accusations of “dirty tricks”.
After all the suspense and expectation, Hamilton chalked up his 10th win of the season, and 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.
“Right now, I’m losing the world championship so I’m not bothered if I’m going to lose the race,” replied Hamilton, who crossed the line 0.4 seconds ahead of Rosberg with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel third.
The frosty atmosphere between the pair as they waited for the podium ceremony spoke volumes. 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,” Rosberg said in podium interviews.
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-times champion depended on denying Rosberg clear air and allowing rivals to get close enough to pass.
“It was tricky at the end there with Lewis playing some dirty tricks,” four-times champion Vettel said 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.
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.
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,” non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said.
“We tried to tell him the danger was coming because Vettel had the fastest car at the end.”