Nico Rosberg’s sudden retirement created a headache for Mercedes and also brought to an end what had been the longest-running driver partnership in F1 currently.
He and Lewis Hamilton originally teamed up at Mercedes in 2013. The pair already knew each other well from their karting days, but one feature remained constant until their final year together in F1: Hamilton always managed to out-score Rosberg over a season.
That changed in 2016, when Rosberg beat Hamilton to the title. The role technical problems may have played in that have already been covered at length here previously. But does the data show Rosberg also raised his game in 2016 compared to previous seasons?
A few interesting points stand out when examining Rosberg and Hamilton’s win/lose records in qualifying and races from their time together at Mercedes (below). The first is that 2015 was clearly Rosberg’s weakest season against Hamilton, especially prior to the final three races of the season, at which point the title had been settled.
After he won the title this year Rosberg has described the lengths he went to improve his performance in 2016. This included buying a kart to hone his racecraft and using meditation to sharpen his mental approach.
This didn’t transform him into a quicker driver than Hamilton. But compared to his form over the first 13 races of 2015, Rosberg was at least able to out-qualify his team mate on merit at times and convert the points-scoring opportunities which followed. That proved decisive in a season when Hamilton experienced a disproportionately high number of technical problems.
While few would dispute Hamilton was the better driver of the pair, many might have expected the scale of his superiority over Rosberg to have been greater during the past four years. He won the qualifying battle 42-34 and came ahead in races 39-27. Given that, a championship scoreline of 2-1 instead of 3-0 doesn’t seem unfair.
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Hamilton vs Rosberg, 2013-16
NB. The 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been treated as a single points round.
2016 F1 season
- Are tickets too dear? Crowds fell at some tracks in 2016
- F1’s TV audience decline stopped in 2016
- Brawn among key F1 hires announced by Liberty
- Has F1 hit ‘peak penalties’? Fewer sanctions in 2016
- Brundle reveals Monaco GP heart attack