Motorsport 2016 review: Nico Rosberg takes F1 title and retires, Marc Marquez wins fifth world championship

A review of the biggest headlines in the motorsport world in 2016

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The Independent Online

January

Chevrolet in closest ever Daytona finish

The closest ever finish in the Daytona 24 Hours was recorded on a weekend to remember for American giants Chevrolet and their two Corvette C7.Rs crossed the line split by an incredible 0.034s, with Oliver Gavin taking GT LE Mans spoils ahead of Andy Garcia after a titanic battle over the closing laps. There was an overall victory for the LMP2-spec Tequila Patron ESM Ligier as it held of the Daytona Prototypes in their final outing at Daytona before being scrapped.

February

Bird electrifies the streets of Buenos Aires

Formula E returns after a two-month hiatus with the Argentina E-Prix in Buenos Aires as Britain’s Sam Bird takes victory ahead of title rivals Sebastian Buemi and Lucas Di Grassi. The championship battle would end in controversial circumstances in London five months later, where Di Grassi appeared to deliberately take out Buemi at the first corner of the final race. Both would recover to the pits, and Buemi would take the title by virtue of setting the fastest lap.

March

Rosberg starts season in style

The Formula One season starts in farce as a new qualifying system is introduced just weeks before the season begins at the Australian Grand Prix, with terrible results. The new 90-second elimination system causes chaos, and leads to the drivers returning to the pits for the closing minutes of qualifying to save tyres rather than go for pole. On Sunday, Nico Rosberg deals his first blow to Lewis Hamilton by beating his Mercedes teammate off the line and going on to win in Melbourne. It would be the first of many poor starts for Hamilton.

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Nico Rosberg celebrates victory in Melbourne (Getty)

April

Marquez back to winning ways

Marc Marquez begins to show that 2015 was a fluke. After losing his MotoGP title to Jorge Lorenzo and seeing his Spanish compatriot win the season opener in Doha, Marquez  dominates both the Argentina Grand Prix and American Grand Prix. However, the four-time world champion can do nothing in the third Grand Prix of a busy month to stop Valentino Rossi from powering to victory in Barcelona, and the veteran Italian would soon emerge as his closest contender for the title.

May

Verstappen takes advantage of Merc madness

The moment of the season arrives in Formula One at Barcelona. Tensions are increasing in the Hamilton camp as his teammate has won the opening four races of the season, handing Rosberg a healthy 43-point lead. The teammates commit the unholiest of sins in F1 by taking each other off on the first lap, leaving an intriguing battle between Red Bull and Ferrari to develop. After stepping up from Toro Rosso to replace a demoted Danill Kvyat, teenager Max Verstappen wins his very first Grand Prix in the Red Bull to announce his arrival in F1 in style.

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Verstappen's victory made him the youngest driver to win a Formula One race (Getty)

June

Le Mans heartbreak for Toyota

The Le Mans 24 Hours begins behind the safety car after a huge storm hits the Circuit de la Sarthe moments before the start of the race. After Porsche lead early and Audi drop out of the battle at the front, Toyota soon emerge in the middle of the night to close in on victory. That is until the final lap of the race. As Kazuki Nakajima brings the Toyota TS050 that he shares with Anthony Davidson and Sebastian Buemi to the line to start the final lap, it grinds to a halt. The No 2 Porsche of Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and Roman Dumas passes them with three minutes remaining on what proved to be the final lap, and Toyota’s wait for a first Le Mans title goes on.

July

Hamilton bounces back

After their crash in Spain, Lewis Hamilton begins to claw back Nico Rosberg’s advantage by winning six out of the next seven grand prixs, including wins in Austria, Britain and Hungary in July. It would prove a difficult run for Rosberg, as would be penalised for causing another accident between himself and Hamilton on the final lap in Austria that would leave Hamilton to go on to victory and the German dropping to fourth with front wing damage. Rosberg would also lose second place in Silverstone after receiving help from his engineer to deal with a gearbox issue, dropping him behind Verstappen, and by the time F1 headed to the summer break, Hamilton had built a 19-point lead.

August

Crutchlow makes history in Brno

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Cal Crutchlow celebrates his success in the Czcech Grand Prix (AP)

35 years after a Briton last won in the premiere class of motorcycling, Cal Crutchlow emulates Barry Sheene by taking his first MotoGP victory in Brno in mixed conditions, sparking wild celebrations from the Coventry-born rider. Crutchlow goes on to take a second victory in the dry at Phillip Island in Australia to confirm his pace, and he’s one of nine riders to win a grand prix over the course of a fascinating season.

September

Hamilton loses his grip

After recovering from his poor start to the season, Hamilton looks to be on course for a third straight world championship. But his season begins to unravel, and after taking a back-of-the-grid penalty at Spa that sees him third, two more nightmare starts in Italy and Japan sees him lose serious ground to Rosberg in the title battle. A poor outing in Singapore is followed by a disastrous engine failure in Malaysia while leading the race, and suddenly Hamilton finds himself 33 points behind Rosberg with four races remaining.

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Hamilton's engine blow-up in Malaysia would prove costly (Getty)

October

Marcquez, Rea and Byrne reign supreme

It’s a familiar feeling in the motorcycle world as Marc Marquez claims his fifth world championship and third MotoGP crown with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, to the delight of his Repsol Honda team, taking the title with three races to spare. In World Superbikes, Johnny Rea backs up his 2015 championship by clinching the title at Losail, although the end of the season is dominated by Chaz Davies as the Welshman wins the last six grand prixs, while Shane Byrne clinches his fifth British Superbike championship by taking third in the final race of the season at Brands Hatch.

November

Rosberg reaches the summit

34 years after his father won the F1 world championship, Nico Rosberg emulates Keke to beat Lewis Hamilton to the 2016 title, Hamilton reels off four straight victories at the end of the season in a late bid to hold on to his crown, but it’s not enough as the German survives Hamilton’s backing-up tactics in Abu Dhabi to finish second and claim his maiden title.

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Rosberg and Hamilton have enjoyed a great rivalry on the track (Getty)

Hamilton actually wins more races throughout the season, but the reliability troubles he endured prove costly as Rosberg’s consistency takes him to glory.

December

Rosberg rocks the world

Five days after his title success, Rosberg rocks the world when he announces his shock retirement from F1 at the FIA awards ceremony where he is to receive his world championship, despite having a two-year contract with Mercedes. The decision takes everyone by surprise, and leaves a very large gap on the grid for 2017. Having achieved his childhood dream of winning the world championship, Rosberg decides to bow out at the top.

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