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At last, Rosberg lets emotions go on Abu Dhabi podium after clinching F1 title

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Nico Rosberg’s ‘one race at a time’ approach to this year’s Formula 1 world championship may not have been to everyone’s taste, but on Sunday in Abu Dhabi, as he clinched his maiden title, its effect was clear to see.

Rosberg had spent the last two years in the shadow of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, but 2016 saw a different side to the German: calculated, calm, cool. The elation or heartache of one race weekend would not be carried over to the next.

The most iconic sportsmen tend to wear their hearts on their sleeve. Hamilton has done that throughout his career. Rosberg, though, knew he had to keep his emotions in check all season long if he wanted to finally become world champion.

Yet when the crown was clinched as he crossed the line second in Abu Dhabi, Rosberg finally let his emotions go. Fighting back the tears, he told the Mercedes team over his radio: “Thank you guys. You have made a childhood dream come true. Thank you so much.”

The end of the race had been dramatic, with Hamilton defying team orders by backing Rosberg towards the oncoming Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, knowing it to be the only way he could win the title. The tactic failed to pay off, even if it did shake Rosberg up.

“Hell no, that was definitely not the most enjoyable race I’ve ever had!” Rosberg said on the podium. “With Max in the beginning and with those guys coming up the end, really not really enjoyable, those last laps.

“I’m glad it’s over. Unbelievably ecstatic.”

And then the icy defence Rosberg had put up all year came down, his voice catching as he spoke.

“I want to [dedicate] the win to my wife. Thank you so much for all the support, and to our daughter,” Rosberg said, smirking as he held back the tears.

“I will thank everyone else afterwards. Unreal.”

The title was all the more significant for Rosberg, for it made him the latest second generation champion as he followed the footsteps of his father, Keke, who won the title back in 1982.

“Very very proud of course to have done the same feat as my dad achieved,” Rosberg said.

“He’s gonna be coming in like half an hour I think. Be exciting to see him.”

As the cameras turned to Sebastian Vettel for his podium interview, Rosberg took a moment to wipe the moisture from his eyes. His face told you everything about how much the championship meant to him.

The other notable moment on the podium came when Rosberg and Hamilton shook hands – twice – and embraced, putting their rivalry to one side at the end of a fiercely-fought season.

During their four seasons together as teammates, there have been a number of moments where the Rosberg-Hamilton relationship looked damaged beyond repair. Even on Sunday, when Hamilton played – in the words of Sebastian Vettel – “dirty tricks”, it was clear the needle was still there.

But underlying all of their battles, their spats, their clashes, there is still a deep-rooted respect for one another.

“I just want to say congrats to Lewis,” Rosberg said when the cameras turned back to him.

“You did a great season, great competitor, massively quick. Always tough to beat you.”

Rosberg then moved to the edge of the podium balcony to address the Mercedes team that has been with him for all 23 of his grand prix victories, and now a world championship.

“Guys, as a team Mercedes, please put the music on. I’m coming down in one second,” Rosberg said, before making one final tribute to his family.

“My Mum, really looking forward to seeing her. The whole family together, it’s going to be wonderful.”

Previously, Rosberg was defined as being ice cool; emotionless; perhaps as not showing enough heart.

But on Sunday, the family man became F1 world champion. And that definition cannot be contested.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).