PERTH Formula 1 star Daniel Ricciardo finished a stellar 2016 season to secure third on the world championship table after finishing fifth in a bizarre Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The race was won by Lewis Hamilton, but teammate Nico Rosberg was crowned world champion after a race that might have had a Hollywood scriptwriter.
With no love lost between the two Mercedes teammates, Hamilton disobeyed team orders to increase his pace up front and purposely slowed in a vain attempt to let rival Ferrari and Red Bull competitors overtake Rosberg.
The German had only to finish in the top three to secure the title and if he failed, the crown would go to Hamilton.
In the closing laps, Sebastien Vettel, who had fresh supersoft tyres on his Ferrari, overtook the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and closed in on Rosberg, twice trying to force a way past.
Verstappen was also a threat.
But a frustrated Rosberg somehow clung to his second spot to claim the title in what must have been the closest finish of the season, with just 1.6 seconds from first to fourth places.
Rosberg’s victory was the second F1 world title for his family; his colourful dad, Keke, won it 34 years ago.
“That was definitely not my most enjoyable race,” Rosberg said during the podium interview, and left it at that.
Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Raikkonen had an entertaining race-long duel to take fifth and sixth and the Force India duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez not only secured seventh and eighth places, but pipped Williams for fourth place in the constructor’s championship.
Felipe Massa ended his F1 career with a fine ninth position for Williams after a good scrap with Fernando Alonso, who took the 10th and final point for McLaren.
Alonso’s teammate, Brit Jenson Button was forced to retire in his last ever F1 race.
Ricciardo had a great 2016, scoring points in all but one of the 21 Grands Prix.
He had a win in Malaysia and podium spots in Mexico, USA, Singapore, Belgium, Germany, Hungary and Monaco, plus six fourth places and three fifths.
His worst showing was in Russia, where he ran 11th.
But new rules and new car specifications for 2017 suggest the Red Bull Renaults can get closer to the dominance of the Mercedes.
“I think it is just a matter of fine tuning now,” he said.
“Looking at the season overall I’m super happy and very pleased with the year.
“It’s definitely been more highs than lows this year with a lot of podiums, satisfying races and a good chunk of points, so I think it was a good 2016 for sure.
“I’m not going to get too caught up with thinking about next year, but if we woke up in February for testing and the car’s quick, you’ll see me fighting for the title.”