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Mon Mar 27 02:49:11 SAST 2017

Nico makes history

AFP | 2016-11-28 07:21:31.0
Mercedes' Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates with his team after winning Formula One world championship.
Image by: AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS

Nico Rosberg won his maiden Formula 1 world title yesterday finishing second behind Mercedes arch-rival Lewis Hamilton in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

But not before high drama as reigning champion Hamilton ignored team orders in a last bid to block his German teammate.

With the race win - his tenth of the year - assured, Hamilton ignored team orders to speed up as he toyed with the pace, slowing it down in a last-ditch bid to allow third-placed Sebastian Vettel and fourth-placed Max Verstappen to overtake Rosberg. Had Rosberg finished outside of the top three, Hamilton would have won his third world title in a row.

But Rosberg, who started the 21st and final race of 2016 12 points clear of Hamilton, would not be denied. His second place meant he clinched his first championship by five points and followed in the tyre tracks of father Keke, who won the title in 1982.

Rosberg returned to applause and cheers from the pits, and lifted F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone up in the air in a massive bear hug.

In stark contrast, there was barely any contact between Rosberg and deposed champion, Hamilton, before the presentation.

That was left for the podium, when Hamilton congratulated his former teenage go-carting companion with a handshake and a hug.

"Big congratulations to Nico, good job man," said Hamilton.

Rosberg reliving the final tense laps, said with the guys coming up behind him, it was not the most enjoyable end.

"I'm very proud to have done the same feat as my dad."

But by beating the three-time champion, Hamilton, the usually reserved Rosberg did far more than that.

In addition to making Formula 1's veteran ring-master Ecclestone "eat his words" - Ecclestone had said a Rosberg title win would be bad for business - he had many other pundits chewing furiously.

His father famously won only one race in his title triumph and a career total of five, but Rosberg swept to the title with nine wins this year.

Despite losing to Hamilton in the final race of the season yesterday, his overall triumph against Hamilton reflected his character - his refusal to concede, a relentless competitiveness and a cerebral attention to detail.

His championship triumph maintains the virility of his competitive value in combat with Hamilton and caps a happy period in his personal life.

While Hamilton remains single and has a playboy image, in 2014 Rosberg married his childhood sweetheart Vivian Sibold with whom he has a daughter, Alaia, born in August last year.

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