ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Nico Rosberg’s bid to overtake teammate Lewis Hamilton in the standings for his first title on the final day of a gripping Formula One season lasted three seconds.
That was the time it took Hamilton to shoot past him as he coasted to victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and secured his second championship.
Rosberg missed out on his maiden title after a topsy-turvy season that tested the Mercedes rivals — and their friendship — to the limit.
With double points on offer in Abu Dhabi, the German driver could have clinched the title by winning the race and hoping Hamilton finished third or lower.
Instead, he had problems throughout the race and tumbled down the leaderboard, crossing the line in 14th place for his third worst performance of the campaign.
“I’m very disappointed. All in all, Lewis deserved to win the championship,” Rosberg said. “What happened to me had no impact, it did not change anything so there is no point focusing on that.”
Overall, Hamilton won 11 races and scored 384 points, while Rosberg won five and got 317.
“I came very close and it is a pity it did not work out,” Rosberg said. “I’m proud to have been here with the team. It’s been very intense, a very special weekend for me with so much support.”
Rosberg often refers to the fact that he bettered Hamilton in qualifying this season, taking 11 pole positions compared to seven for Hamilton.
“I’ve been the better qualifier over the last two years and that gives me a good base,” he said.
That is only if he starts converting those pole positions into wins on a more regular basis, since Hamilton continues to prove he is the more composed driver when both cars are at full tilt.
Rosberg was in control early on in the season, placing in the top two in the first seven races, with Hamilton retiring from two of them. Hamilton caught up and then pulled away after the summer break on the back of five straight wins.
Rosberg stopped the rot two weeks ago by beating Hamilton in Brazil.
“It’s been so intense between us all year long. Good moments and bad,” Hamilton said. “He’s going to be quick for a long time. It could have been either one of us today, we both wanted it.”
Although they go back to teenage days when they raced go-karts against each other, this did not protect their relationship under the intense strain of racing.
The tension rose when a grinning Rosberg clearly goaded a stern-looking Hamilton in Thursday’s pre-race news conference, urging him to “race cleanly.”
Hamilton tried to blank Rosberg with flat, emotionless answers in the days leading up to the race and, when it counted, he answered him emphatically on the track.
The seeds of discontent were sown long before Abu Dhabi, which came after months of bickering and even team orders for both of them to calm down.
It started in May, when Hamilton was furious with Rosberg after an incident late in qualifying cost him pole position in Monaco.
He was even more livid with Rosberg in Belgium, where the team was plunged into crisis mode after Hamilton accused his rival of deliberately nudging into him and bursting his tire.
Hamilton acknowledged on Sunday that he had to hold back that day in Spa.
“Going back a few years, I would have chosen another way (to deal with it) which wouldn’t have been positive,” he said. “I came back to the next races with a slightly different approach.”
Still, they were gracious enough after Sunday’s race.
“(Rosberg) just came into the room just now, he was very professional. He said ‘Fantastic, you drove really well,'” Hamilton said after his 33rd career GP win. “Nico put up an incredible fight throughout the year. We said way back in 1997 that it would be amazing if we were fighting for the title one day.”
Hamilton, at least, will know exactly how Rosberg feels.
He lost the title to Kimi Raikkonen by one point in 2007 and beat Felipe Massa by the same margin the following year.
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