Pain in Bahrain, but a strong 2016
The last race of the season in Bahrain didn’t quite go to plan… Jonny Adam joined me in the Aston Martin, fresh from his British GT Championship win. It all started well and we were feeling strong by the end of the practice sessions and then we took pole position.
Qualifying for WEC is done on aggregate and, amazingly, Jonny and I posted exactly the same lap time, which I’ve not seen happen before. It was weird then to look at the data: the lap overlays showed that we were different at every corner – Jonny was quicker in some parts, I was quicker in others – so it was pretty remarkable to end up with the same time.
The start of the race was a bit messy and I dropped down to third, but by the end of the stint I was right on the tail of Gianmaria Bruni, who was leading at the time. I had a great battle with him, which reminded me of races in the past where we have had long, wheel-to-wheel tussles. It’s always fun to race against someone who races hard but is very sporting.
After that Jonny had a strong stint, then I had a strong stint and we were pulling away, building up a nice lead. Just after the third pit stop, when Jonny was back in the car, we lost a wheel due to a small mechanical problem. That effectively put paid to our race. Jonny managed to get back to the garage and the team repaired the damage quickly, but all we could do was fight our way back up to fifth.
It was one of those ‘what could have been’ races. If we’d finished in the lead and won the race we would have also secured the manufacturer title for Aston Martin, but on the flipside the Danes in the no95 Aston Martin went on to win the race and with it both championship titles.
Looking back at Aston Martin Racing’s season, the team won the British GT Championship with TF Sport, the GT3 Le Mans Cup with TF Sport, the European Le Mans Series with Beechdean Motorsport and then the driver and team titles in the WEC. All in all it has been an incredible season.
Probably the biggest challenge everyone had at the start of the year was the switch to Dunlop tyres and Total oils. Our new partners performed excellently throughout the season and I think we can all enjoy the success we had in 2016.
The focus is now on 2017 and even further on to 2018, when the new car comes in. Success is great but you move on from it quickly, always chasing the next goal.
I’ll be sad to see Audi leave the WEC. I’ve not always enjoyed sharing the same track with them, having spent many years watching the Audis close in on me with their bright lights and aggressive race strategies, but it
has been a real pleasure to watch the LMP1 battle between the three manufacturers. In fact, the drivers in the non-LMP1 classes actually get the best grandstand seats to watch those contests.
When I did the DTM I drove for Keke Rosberg’s team for two years. When Nico moved into F1 I always took an interest, purely because Keke was such a proper old-school legend. In F1’s Abu Dhabi finale I think Lewis did everything he had to do to try to win the championship – and he probably could have pushed it even further.
Nico deserves this championship. Not just because he won many races this season and fought such a strong campaign, but that move he made on Verstappen to make sure he was in a strong position behind Lewis in Abu Dhabi and to deal with all that incredible pressure in the closing laps just proves he is real championship material. It’s good to see that he is quite rightly proud of winning the title.
I totally understand Nico’s retirement, too. He set out with a goal to become F1 world champion. He’s achieved that, has decided there is more to life than going racing and should be applauded for both the way he drove and his decision.