Sunday 22 September 2019

Hamilton's gamble backfires as Rosberg triumphs

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates on the podium after winning the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix

Daniel Johnson in abu dhabi

Betting may be banned in this land of sand and swanky hotels, but Lewis Hamilton fancied a final flutter to end this spectacular season in style.

As it was, the final throw of the dice - perhaps not the one he wanted - failed to provide the year with its most fitting conclusion.

Instead, Nico Rosberg strolled to a third win in a row, while Hamilton, funky strategy and all, followed his team-mate home a distant second.

In short, Hamilton gambled and lost. He ran much longer on his second stint in a bid to have fresher rubber at the end to mount a decisive assault, but it was to no avail.

As he has done in the previous two races, Hamilton quibbled and queried his team all the way, eager to plot his own path. But as Toto Wolff, his Mercedes head of motorsport, said after the last round in Brazil, if Hamilton were to choose his own strategy alone, he would have "lost every time".

The team did not mind a jot, after a record-breaking 12th one-two of the season.

Predictably, they opted for the more conservative option with Hamilton giving him the harder rubber for the closing flourish rather than the more fragile supersofts, a decision he seemed to regret.

However, with a historic third championship long since sealed, he was in no mood to start going ballistic at the team, other than to say they gave him a "mountain to climb" in the final laps.

"I don't know the big picture and ultimately you have to rely on the engineers to give you the optimum strategy at that point," Hamilton said. "Honestly, I don't really under-stand it, but I came out 11 seconds behind.

"I had a mountain to climb, which I pushed as hard as I could, but then the tyres went off. I left the team to make the call because I didn't know which was the right one.

"I don't know which one was better. I'm not sure if it could have gone to the end. Some part of me wishes I had given it a go."

For Rosberg, the first race in Australia next March cannot come soon enough, having found top form at the wrong moment.

Since Austin, when Hamilton took the title, Rosberg is undefeated.

"Austin was the low point and since then I've come back a lot stronger," he said.

"It's great to end the season like this."

Kimi Raikkonen finished where he started in third, while his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel clawed himself up from 15th to fourth.

Elsewhere, Williams made a characteristic blunder in the pit lane, while Fernando Alonso was penalised for a clumsy collision at the start.

Everyone needs a break, eager for a revitalised season next year. (© Daily Telegraph, London.

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