How Nico Rosberg won the 2016 world drivers' championship

ESPN looks at the highs and lows of Nico Rosberg's title-winning campaign after he secured a maiden championship title in dramatic circumstances in Abu Dhabi.

A perfect start

Though he lost the 2015 world title to Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg finished that campaign on a high -- claiming victories in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi after losing out on the championship in Austin. Regardless of whether Hamilton had lost focus after a third title, it meant Rosberg went into the winter on a high -- a stark contrast to 2014, when Hamilton beat him to six of the final seven races on route to the championship.

He beat the sluggish Lewis Hamilton off the line at the Australian Grand Prix and recovered from a good Ferrari start to win. Rosberg won again in Bahrain as Hamilton was hit at Turn 1 by another car, before power unit issues for his teammate during qualifying in China and Russia gave the German a routine run to victory. It meant he had won seven in a row and held a 43-point lead going to Spain.

He looked well-placed for an eighth in a row when he beat Hamilton into Turn 1 at the Spanish Grand Prix, only to enter an incorrect engine mode several corners later. The speed differential coming out of Turn 4 let Hamilton get alongside him -- the pair collided and crashed out of the race. Like their collision in Belgium two years' earlier, it proved to be a momentum shifter.

Standings after Spain:
Rosberg - 100
Raikkonen - 61
Hamilton - 57


Rosberg out-qualified Hamilton in Monaco but endured a baffling downturn in form, struggling monumentally in the rain. He struggled for pace so much Mercedes asked him to move over for Hamilton, who eventually won after Red Bull botched a pit-stop for Daniel Ricciardo. Rosberg could only finish seventh at his home race, being overtaken at the final corner by Nico Hulkenberg.

Rosberg's struggles continued into Canada, where he was forced wide at Turn 1 by Hamilton and then laboured to fifth position, spinning late on while trying to pass Max Verstappen. A Hamilton mistake during qualifying in Baku saw Rosberg take pole and waltz to victory, helping him regain a vital 15 points on his teammate, who could finish no higher than fifth. It would be Rosberg's last victory until after the summer break. Though Hamilton would suffer reliability issues later on in the season, those 15 points lost in Baku turned out to be pivotal.

Standings after Azerbaijan:

Rosberg - 141
Hamilton - 117
Vettel - 96

A difficult July

Hamilton would be the in-form Mercedes man in July, winning all four of the month's races. It could have been so different for Rosberg, who recovered from a poor start at the first of them, in Austria, to lead the race. After being jumped through strategy, Hamilton closed on Rosberg late in the race. Under pressure, Rosberg made a mistake at Turn 1 on the final lap, letting Hamilton get alongside him. Rosberg, on the inside, went straight on, and the pair collided. Rosberg came off worse, sustaining damage and dropping to fourth, as Hamilton nursed his car home for a win.

Hamilton arrived in Britain a rejuvenated man and, after a Safety Car start, led away comfortably. Rosberg fell victim to a phenomenal Max Verstappen overtake and, though he eventually re-passed the Dutch teenager, was demoted to third post-race after receiving banned radio messages. Hamilton took the championship lead in Hungary, winning a Mercedes one-two, before Rosberg had a sluggish getaway from pole in Germany. Rosberg, who clumsily collided with Verstappen during the race, had to settle for fourth and went into the summer break wondering how to turn the momentum back in his favour.

Championship standings after Germany:
Hamilton - 217
Rosberg - 198

A gamechanger in Belgium

Hamilton's engine problems from the start of the season had left him thin on available power units for the rest of the year. Mercedes made a tactical double switch during the Belgian Grand Prix, giving him a hefty grid penalty but adding several fresh units to his pool for the rest of the season. Rosberg won from pole, with Hamilton having to settle for third position. Hamilton then took pole in Italy, but another sluggish start saw Rosberg lead into Turn 1 at the most power-dependent circuit on the calendar. Hamilton fought back to second but it was a second straight win for Rosberg.

A third in a row followed in Singapore, arguably Rosberg's crowning glory from the season. A dominant weekend saw him take pole and a commanding win as Hamilton laboured to third, giving Rosberg an eight-point championship lead heading to the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Standings after Singapore:
Rosberg - 273
Hamilton - 265

Drama in Malaysia

Hamilton needed a win in Sepang and looked to be on the verge of claiming one, leading away from pole as Rosberg got spun around at Turn 1, forcing a fight through the field. It seemed like it was the moment that would turn the title battle on its head, but that moment would actually follow late in the race: Hamilton's engine failing in a ball of flames, giving Red Bull a one-two. Rosberg came home to third position, extending his lead to 23 points.

That gap grew again in Japan as Rosberg led away from pole and Hamilton started slowly. Hamilton was forced into recovery mode and had to settle for third, meaning Rosberg entered the final four races of the season leading by a huge 33 points.

Championship standings after Japan:
Rosberg - 313
Hamilton - 280

Hamilton hits back

Hamilton headed into back-to-back races in the United States and Mexico knowing that he needed to win all four remaining races and hope that Rosberg hit some kind of trouble in order to have any chance of clinching a fourth title. Hamilton responded exactly as he needed to, winning both races from pole position to keep his championship hopes alive. The only bad news for Hamilton was that after comfortably beating his teammate in qualifying and the race at Austin and Mexico, Rosberg did enough to secure two second place finishes, reducing Hamilton's already slimming title chances in the process.

After a Virtual Safety Car spared him having to fight with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo over second place in the United States, Rosberg avoided serious damage at Turn 1 in Mexico as Verstappen ran wide and clouted the German's Mercedes. The Dutchman then failed to pull off an overtake on Rosberg in the closing stages, allowing Rosberg to coast to an all-important second. On a pair of weekends where Hamilton badly needed some bad luck to thwart Rosberg, the German left Mexico still firmly in the box seat for a maiden title with a handy 19-point lead.

Championship standings after Mexico:
Rosberg - 349
Hamilton - 330

Rosberg weathers the storm

Lewis Hamilton's momentum stayed with him in Brazil as he claimed pole position at Interlagos, with Rosberg happy to settle for second alongside his teammate. Heavy rain on race day changed everything and after several red flags, safety cars and race restarts Rosberg was passed by Max Verstappen and dropped to third. Red Bull soon made an error on strategy to hand the position back, before Rosberg saved what could have been a race-ending snap on the run up towards the wall at Juncao. it was not the most stunning of drives but did not need to be, as the result kept Rosberg's destiny well and truly in his own hands and kept him the heavy favourite going to the Abu Dhabi showdown.

Points after Brazil:
Rosberg - 367
Hamilton - 355

A tense finish, a worthy champion

Hamilton continued his strong form in Abu Dhabi, taking a commanding pole position as Mercedes once again dominated the season finale. Rosberg, who just needed a podium for his maiden championship, took second ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull. Hamilton led into Turn 1 but Rosberg held second and soon came under huge pressure from the chasing pack as his teammate. Rosberg was faultless under pressure, keeping second after the first stops and then passing the one-stopping Max Verstappen in thrilling circumstances at mid-distance.

In the closing stages, a desperate Hamilton once again backed Rosberg into the chasing pack as Vettel and Verstappen closed in. Once again Rosberg stayed calm to cross the line just 0.4s behind his teammate to claim a first world championship title.

Final points standings:
Rosberg - 385
Hamilton - 380