Besting his teammate for the third time in as many races, Nico Rosberg made his intentions for 2016 clear in the UAE. The overall result may have been the same, but Nico Rosberg leaves Abu Dhabi this year with a lot more to smile about. Whereas last year’s finale was the culmination of the German steadily losing his grip on the world championship, 12 months later the same race put the final emphasis on his statement that he is still a force to be reckoned with. Having played second fiddle to teammate Lewis Hamilton for the first two-thirds of the season, the final six races have been a remarkably different story, with Rosberg constantly matching – if not besting – Hamilton for pace. In Abu Dhabi, the German was dominant once more, enjoying a comfortable 0.377s margin in qualifying that translated into an equally impressive 8.271s victory on Sunday. Rosberg’s detractors will point out that if it is not too little, his efforts have certainly been far too late, but it certainly sets up an interesting dynamic heading into 2016. Read on for a look at that, and some of the other key talking points from the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Rosberg Finishes on a Hot Streak As far as Nico Rosberg is concerned, the 2016 Formula One season can’t start soon enough. Saying as much in the post-race podium interviews, it would be hard to blame Rosberg for spending the next few days extensively googling current developments in time warp technology, given his recent run of form. His confidence is clearly sky-high, and that’s made a world of difference for the German. For us fans, the tricky part now is figuring out just how real Rosberg’s recent run of dominance actually is. As much as Rosberg might wish for the next season to begin right now, he’ll have to endure one final low-note as he watches Lewis Hamilton hoist a second-straight championship trophy at the FIA’s annual awards gala. What makes things especially difficult is that there’s a case to be made for both for and against Rosberg. The aforementioned stance is the one that favours Hamilton, as it seems more than a little coincidental that Rosberg starts winning the moment the championship has been decided. Those with short memories might forget Hamilton absolutely trounced Rosberg while the title was still at stake, leading their qualifying head-to-head 12-4, and their races 10-3 (where both drivers finished). Even on the rare occasions Rosberg did match Hamilton for pace, he usually lacked the composure to take victories, most memorably spinning out of the lead in Hamilton’s championship-sealing race in Austin. There’s no way to know for sure this isn’t Hamilton in third gear – he’s admitted to “heavy partying” in recent weeks, and really, who can blame him? For Rosberg, the argument is a fairly straightforward one: six straight poles is no fluke. That run includes three do-or-die championship races in Japan, Russia and the US, showing that he upped his game when it mattered most. Sure it turned out to be too late, but the associated hat-trick is Rosberg finally syncing up with the car, and Hamilton’s excuses of “changes since Singapore” prove that he’s ruffled some feathers. If Hamilton can be lauded for working on his driving over the 2014 winter break, why can’t the same be said for Rosberg since the start of 2015’s summer one? Regardless of where you fall, it’s fair to pencil in Hamilton as the favourite for 2016, but Melbourne is set to matter a lot more than your standard season-opener. Even if we don’t get a different name on top at the end of next year, all signs point to next year’s title fight being a lot closer than this one. Verstappen Edges Closer to One-Race Ban If there’s such a thing as too much youthful exuberance, Max Verstappen may soon find out what that limit is. Penalised for two separate incidents on Sunday – the first for “leaving the track and gaining an advantage” during a duel with McLaren’s Jenson Button, the second for ignoring blue flags – Verstappen picked up a further three points on his superlicense. Taking his tally to eight penalty points since Monaco, Verstappen will be forced to sit out a race should he accrue four more prior to that race next year. Just two months past his eighteenth birthday, Verstappen’s performance in his first F1 season has gone a long way to answer critics who suggested the Dutchman was too young for the sport. However, he’s done himself no favours through earning such straightforward penalties. Of course, he wouldn’t be in such a situation were it not for the three points he received in Hungary for speeding under the safety car, which was due to a miscommunication with the team. Especially given his age and reputation as an extremely aggressive driver, could this be an instance of the stewards looking to make an example of the driver purported to be the sport’s next big star? Being handed a one-race ban would put him in the same sentence as Romain Grosjean, who did far more to earn one with repeatedly dangerous driving. Whatever the case, he can look forward to starting the 2016 season firmly under the stewards’ microscope. Does a Sabbatical Make Sense for Alonso? For someone with a Samurai tattoo on his back, it seemed there was little fight left in Fernando Alonso on Sunday. Surrounded by rumours of a self-imposed sabbatical from the sport throughout the weekend, Alonso had to endure one more tortuous race before his season could come to a merciful end. Caught in a first-corner incident with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado, the two-time world champion was handed an early drive through penalty, after which he was heard on team radio asking to retire the car. The Spaniard eventually finished 17th, two laps down on the leading Mercedes. After the race he was vocal in his criticism of the stewards’ decision, and used the opportunity to negatively contrast F1 with Moto GP and the World Endurance Championship. His close friend and former driver Mark Webber had earlier labelled Alonso a “ticking time-bomb” should McLaren struggle again next year, something backed up by his race-day performance. Alonso certainly didn’t go out of his way to quash the rumours, but even if he doesn’t take any sort of sabbatical come the start of next year, don’t be surprised if things change during the season, should his team’s struggles continue. The two-time world champion has clearly had a discouraging 2015, and there’s no guarantee the light at the end of the tunnel will be reached at any point next year. Particularly with McLaren itching to get current GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne some race experience, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Alonso to step aside temporarily if it means less time dealing with a woeful car. After all, this is a long-term project for Alonso as much as it is McLaren – at least from his side, maybe 2016 isn’t a necessary part of the equation. Thanks for reading the GP Debrief this season! Keep it locked to RaceDepartment for plenty more F1 coverage over the winter break, and here’s to a great 2016! Does Rosberg’s streak make him a serious threat for the 2016 title? Is Verstappen being unfairly targeted by the stewards? Could you see Alonso sharing his seat should McLaren continue to struggle? Sound off in the comments below.