Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi, but it was not enough to wrest pole position in the title race from Mercedes teammate and bitter rival Nico Rosberg, who claimed his maiden championship by five points with a second-place finish. The latter only needed to finish on the podium to ensure victory.
However, the repercussions for the British driver after what was a controversial end to the season may extend well beyond the loss of his world championship crown. Hamilton defied team orders and slowed the pace at the front in order to back Rosberg into the chasing pack of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikonnen. While the German was able to fend off the challenge of those behind him, the incident will have done nothing to improve the frosty relations between the pair and there is even speculation that Mercedes will respond by suspending or sacking Hamilton for his act of rebellion.
A defiant Hamilton insisted that only car failures stopped him from repeating his victories in 2014 and 2015 and insisted that he had been faster than Rosberg over most of the season. The 31-year-old’s problems with his car meant he started down the grid in China, Russia and Belgium, while a complete engine failure in the Malaysian GP robbed him of crucial points.
Be that as it may, few F1 fans outside Britain will have any sympathy for Hamilton. He has perhaps been guilty of complacency after two championship wins on the trot and of not giving his racing the attention it deserves. The only black F1 champion in history has been involved in a number of controversies over the years, both on and off the track, and his flamboyant lifestyle and flippant attitude towards protocol serve only to fuel the fire. Just days before the 2016 Australian GP, Hamilton was investigated by New Zealand police for recording himself while riding a Harley on the motorway and more recently, he embroiled himself in a media wrangle by yawning and playing with Snapchat filters during a press conference.
An undoubted talent, I would love to see Hamilton leave Mercedes and prove his worth in another car. Mercedes have been head and shoulders above the pack over the past few seasons and Hamilton and Rosberg have generally pulled off one-two finishes, detracting from what should be motorsport’s spectacle. The feuding rivals squaring off from different pits may be just the shot in the arm the sport needs to rekindle spectator interest.