Hamilton led from pole position and tried to back Rosberg into the chasing pack but his team-mate held off Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen in the closing laps to secure the title. Hamilton was given numerous instructions from Mercedes to speed up but said he was willing to risk losing the race in his attempts to win the title.
Rosberg came under pressure from Vettel in the final stages, with Hamilton's pace dropping off dramatically but he held on to second to win the championship by five points.
Hamilton needed to overturn a 12-point deficit, essentially needing to win the race and require Rosberg to finish outside of the top four. As a result, Hamilton was lapping much slower than he could have been, with a request from the team to do a certain lap time receiving a reply of “I suggest you guys just let us race” from the Briton.
Rosberg closed a gap of more than six seconds following the final pit stops to shadow his team-mate, but Hamilton kept pulling far enough clear in the first sector to ensure he wasn't attacked.
Vettel had opted for a different strategy to the Mercedes pair, running long on soft tyres in the middle stint to take the lead and then pitting for supersoft tyres with 18 laps remaining, while the leaders were all on softs. Verstappen was running third but on old tyres having had to one-stop due to a first-lap spin, and despite closing on the Mercedes pair he didn't have the pace to attack.
The Ferrari was quicker in the closing stint, however, and Vettel passed Verstappen using DRS with four laps remaining, setting after Rosberg but failing to pass the Mercedes despite two attempts at the end of the second DRS zone.
Rosberg crossed the line 0.4s behind Hamilton - who failed to defend his title despite winning ten races to his team-mate's nine this year - and duly celebrated with donuts in front of the main grandstand. For Hamilton, he was left to cruise back to parc ferme, where he congratulated his team-mate, in the knowledge he had tried all he could to retain the championship.
Vettel and Verstappen crossed the line directly behind the Mercedes pair - an excellent recovery from the Dutch driver - with Daniel Ricciardo a further 3.6s back in fifth place. Kimi Raikkonen was third for long periods but lost out to the Red Bulls in the final pit stops and faded to sixth.
Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished seventh and eighth respectively as Force India secured fourth in the constructors' championship - which was guaranteed when Valtteri Bottas retired early in the race - while Felipe Massa ended his final F1 race in ninth as he held off former Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso by 0.4s.
Jenson Button's final grand prix ended less successfully as he was forced to Button retires from final grand prix in Abu Dhabiretire on lap 12 with suspension failure. The 2009 world champion hit the kerb at Turn 8 and was forced to limp back to the pits to end his F1 career in the McLaren garage.
The start of the race saw Rosberg slot in behind Hamilton, while Raikkonen jumped Ricciardo for third place and Verstappen fell behind Hulkenberg. Attempting to pass the Force India on the inside of Turn 1, Verstappen spun and ended up at the back of the field, forcing him to change strategy.
With Hamilton clearly managing his pace, Verstappen's spin still saw him having a major impact as he ran longer on the supersoft tyres as the leaders pit. That left the Red Bull running second - between the two Mercedes drivers - and able to hold off Rosberg as Raikkonen and Ricciardo fought over fourth place directly behind.
Having been held up for more than 10 laps, Rosberg was told it was crucial he pass Verstappen and duly responded by diving up the inside at Turn 8, a move which didn't stick - coming inches from contact - but allowed him to get the better of the Red Bull on the run to Turn 11.
From there on, Rosberg was held up by Hamilton but managed to keep Vettel and Verstappen at bay, even admitting he knew it was a "stupid request" to ask Hamilton to pick up his pace.
Hamilton slowed dramatically entering the final sector on the final lap - as was his prerogative as race leader - but knew the game was up and despite a tenth win of the season, his 53rd overall, he relinquished the title to his team-mate.
|01||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||55 laps - 1h40m01.335s||2|
|04||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+1.685||1|
|05||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||+5.315||2|
|07||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||+50.114||2|
|08||Sergio Perez||Force India||+58.776||2|
|13||Esteban Ocon||Manor||+1 tour||2|
|14||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor||+1 tour||2|
|15||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber||+1 tour||1|
|16||Felipe Nasr||Sauber||+1 tour||2|
|17||Jolyon Palmer||Renault||+1 tour||3|
|18||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||DNF||2|
|19||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||DNF||1|