F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP into the first corner during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg leads after the start of the of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TOM GANDOLFINI / AFP / Tom Gandolfini (Photo credit should read TOM GANDOLFINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Drivers take the start of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TOM GANDOLFINI / AFP / Tom Gandolfini (Photo credit should read TOM GANDOLFINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Drivers take the start of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TOM GANDOLFINI / AFP / Tom Gandolfini (Photo credit should read TOM GANDOLFINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Drivers take the start of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / TOM GANDOLFINI / AFP / Tom Gandolfini (Photo credit should read TOM GANDOLFINI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain, left , crashes with Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela as Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, left, and Sauber driver Felipe Nasr of Brazil run during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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  • Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton race after the start of the of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB / AFP / KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Drivers race after the start of the of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB / AFP / KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen races during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Lotus F1 Team's French driver Romain Grosjean races during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel races during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda and Pastor Maldonado of Venezuela and Lotus return to the track after colliding during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives ahead of Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg races during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton races during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Force India drives during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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  • Sauber F1 Team's Sewdish driver Marcus Ericsson (L) and Scuderia Toro Rosso's Belgian-Dutch driver Max Verstappen drive during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Scuderia Toro Rosso's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr drives (R) drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg waves after winning during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images
AUTO-PRIX-F1-ABU-DHABI
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Image Credit: MARWAN NAAMANI via Getty Images
Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany leads his teammate Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany steers his car in front of his team driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland steers his car during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, left, overtakes Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
  • Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland steers his car during qualifying at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Force India drives during qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during a reconnaissance lap before the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg waves after winning during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015. AFP PHOTO / KARIM SAHIB / AFP / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)
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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi
  • ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 29: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates in Parc Ferme after winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 29, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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  • Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's German driver Nico Rosberg (C) celebrates winning the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 29, 2015, as he is joined on the podium by Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) and Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen (2nd-R), who finished second and third respectively. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI / AFP / MARWAN NAAMANI (Photo credit should read MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Mideast Emirates F1 GP Auto Racing
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  • Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany, center, first place, is flanked by his teammate second place Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen of Finland, third place, on the podium after the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
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Mercedes-AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg Rosberg doesn't attribute anything mystical to the form that got him ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. He said simply, "Before it was close in the other direction, now it's close in this direction."

Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda went further, saying Rosberg's "brain has switched." Under the desert spotlights it switched so far ahead that Lewis Hamilton qualified nearly four tenths behind the German. Kimi Räikkönen flew the scarlet for Ferrari in third position. Being three spots ahead of Valtteri Bottas gave Räikkönen a huge advantage in locking up fourth position in the driver's championship. Even if he doesn't care about it, as he's publicly stated, Ferrari probably does. Teammate Sebastian Vettel was classified 16th after the German slowed down after making a mistake on his final hot lap, and neither he nor his engineer realized how quickly times were falling on a cooling track. He'd be promoted to 15th when Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was penalized for a gearbox change.

Sergio Perez knocked it out of the park for Sahara Force India, claiming fourth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in fifth for Infiniti Red Bull Racing. Williams driver Bottas was in sixth, in front of the second Force India of Nico Hülkenberg and the second Williams of Felipe Massa in eighth. Daniil Kvyat ensured both Red Bulls were in the top 10 with his ninth position, and Carlos Sainz got the upper hand in qualifying over his Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen for the final time this year, rounding out the top 10.

Nico Rosberg leads the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Beyond Nico Rosberg's mind, one of his weaknesses was his slow starts. Those are stronger, too, the German tearing off away from the field when the lights went out. Hamilton bogged enough to have to defend from Perez behind, the Mexican trying to slide between Hamilton and Räikkönen on the run to the first corner. Rosberg held the lead into Turn 1 and likewise held it through Turn 21 on the last lap of the race, only ceding it during pit stops. Rosberg's 14th victory gets him level with Graham Hill on the wins list – on the anniversary of Hill's death in a plane crash – and marks the first time in his 10-year F1 career that he's won three races in a row. More proof of his strength: the last few races we haven't heard Rosberg ask for regular updates about what Hamilton's doing, he just drives.

Hamilton gave it his best but that wasn't enough. He asked to change tire strategy late in the race when it was clear he couldn't catch Rosberg conventionally, and we were puzzled by the team's strategy. His side of the garage kept him out 10 laps longer than Roberg, and Hamilton – leading at this point – wanted to stay out until the end of the race. His engineer said it couldn't be done, they couldn't bank on the tires being safe through 44 laps. But instead of putting on the super soft tires with 14 laps to go, they put on the slower soft tires, afraid the super softs would go off quickly and leave Hamilton vulnerable to Räikkönen. To win, then, Hamilton had to outpace his teammate by one second per lap for 14 laps, and actually pass him. That wasn't going to happen, so he settled for second.

Kimi Raikkonen drives in the 2015 Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

Räikkönen got on the podium for the third time this year, after keeping the Mercedes' honest during the race. Even after a 6.6-second pit stop and slowing down in the final laps, he finished 'only' 20 seconds behind Rosberg, 11 seconds behind Hamilton. The only passes for position that he made were when teammate Vettel let him through, Vettel being on a different strategy in order to get the best run through the field after starting 15th.

The German still remembers how to carve through the field, up to 12th place at the end of the first lap, in seventh on Lap 8, running third on Lap 15 before allowing his teammate through. His first long stint got him into fourth on Lap 16, and he'd clinch the position by passing Perez on Lap 45.

Sergio Perez drives during the 2015 Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.

Perez followed him to the flag in fifth, giving Force India the title of Best of the Rest in the desert. He was shadowed by Ricciardo in sixth, coming in just over a second behind. Hülkenberg made it another nice points haul for Force India by finishing seventh. It used to be that the Indian team fell off at the end of the season, this year the B-spec car they brought to Belgium turned the wick way up: they scored 97 of their 136 points after the summer break, and outscored Red Bull in that same period 97 to 91.

Massa and Grosjean crossed the line almost nose-to-tail in eighth and ninth; Grosjean had pitted on Lap 44 to make a charge to the end of the race, and probably would have cleared the Williams driver if he'd had one more lap. Kvyat rounded out the top ten in the second Red Bull.

That, then, is the season. Mercedes finished one-two 15 times this season out of 19 races, a record for the sport. It also took the largest share of the available points; McLaren took 82.5 percent of all the points on offer in 1988, Mercedes vacuumed up 86 percent of this year's points. The Anglo-German's team's 703 points in the constructor's championship is the most ever won in a season.

The podium at the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Now we look forward to an off-season that has true potential to shake things up. If Rosberg really is mentally stronger, and Hamilton's late-season form isn't a matter of changes to the car, as Hamilton has said, then we might see some real fighting at the front even if it is between two silver cars.

Vettel got on the podium 13 times this year and won three races. If Ferrari can make the same kind of progress over the winter, we might see more red mixed with silver at the pointy end. Red Bull is going to have more development leeway with its engines next year, we'll see if it's as good with power units as it is with aerodynamics. In spite of Alonso's passive-aggressive radio calls, the Honda power unit had its best outing in Abu Dhabi with Jenson Button finishing 12th and actually passing a Ferrari-powered car on track. We'll learn what Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer can do with a race drive, what a Renault manufacturer team if it indeed completes its takeover of Lotus, whether the totally revamped Manor Marussia can move up the grid, and whether the totally new Haas F1 can make a mark its first year.

There will be only two pre-season tests in 2016, the first four-day session at the Circuit de Catalunya February 22-25, just 85 days away. The second test is March 1-4 at the same venue, and the first event of the 21-race season goes down in Australia on March 20. The tilt for the title in 2016 has officially begun now, we'll see you next year.

Related Video:

Infiniti Red Bull F1 Racecar | 2015 NYIAS | Autoblog Short Cuts

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