Hamilton Wins the Battle and the War to secure second title in Abu Dhabi
On a day when his title rival needed everything to go right for him, it was Lewis Hamilton who enjoyed a perfect run to race and championship succ...
On a day when his title rival needed everything to go right for him, it was Lewis Hamilton who enjoyed a perfect run to race and championship success in Abu Dhabi.
As Nico Rosberg finished a lap down, 14th, in his ERS hobbled Mercedes, Hamilton converted a perfect start into three measured stints to deliver an 11th race win of the season ahead of the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
It was Hamilton's 33rd career success and his second in Abu Dhabi to go with his 2011 victory but these were minor statistics on a day when the 29 year-old Englishman completed his second successful championship bid to follow his 2008 title.
Massa ended the day 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton having opted for super soft tyres for his final stint and it looked for a while like he might be able to challenge for the win. However, when Rosberg - already struggling with a lack of ERS and associated brake issues dropped back from 7th, it ensured the title would go to Hamilton and released the Englishman to fight for victory.
He successfully held off Massa, whose third podium of the season was also his second in a row. Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas secured a sixth podium of the year but was left regretting a slow getaway which resulted in him fighting his way back from eighth at the end of the first lap to finish 26.3 seconds behind his team mate.
Afterwards Hamilton stated that this title means more to him than his 2008 success. "I really am a bit lost for words," he said. "I think one thing I want to say is a huge big thank you to all the fans for the flags, all the caps everything.
"It made such a difference this weekend. Also to my family, I love you guys. Thank you so much for coming. I really, really do appreciate it. My Mum back home and my team who throughout the year did an incredible job and without them I wouldn't be here today so I can't really explain how much this means. It means even more than the first one It feels like it's the first time and I feel so blessed.
“The start was like a rocket. It's probably the best start I've ever had and I knew straight away I was in the lead and obviously going into the race I had a few different options about how to approach the race.
“If I was behind then we'd see how it would go until the first stop but if I was ahead then I knew I had to really really race and you know the car was fantastic. We really got it spot on for the race. Obviously qualifying wasn't perfect but we got it ready for the race so that's what's most important.
Hamilton also had words of tribute for his team mate who was quick to congratulate the new champion after the race.
"You know Nico put on an incredible fight throughout the year. He was a phenomenal competitor. You know we met each other back in 1997 and we always said it would be amazing to be racing in the same team and fighting for the world championship and he did an amazing job today and very sad to know that the car wasn't quick enough so we can fight in the end but still he was graceful enough to come up to me just now.
"He just came into the room just now. He was very, very professional and he said 'you drove very well' and the same for him. All year long he drove incredibly well, especially in qualifying so hat off to him.
For Massa, there was a sense of what might have been. An aggressivce late race strategy might have paid dividends had Rosberg not fallen down the field but thre Brazilian was nonetheless satisfied with his race.
"First of all thank you everybody and Lewis, well done and congratulations. You deserve it. You did a fantastic championship. And yeah, it was an incredible race for us. I did not expect to have that pace.
"It was slightly slower than Mercedes but not so much on the same tyres and I was able to keep the tyres (working )until a (late) part of the race and I was talking to the team and we tried the option - yes, why not?
“We had a big gap to the car behind which was Valtteri so (we said) let's try. Unfortunately it was a little bit too far but I wanted so much that victory but we were close and I hope that's just the beginning for next year.
"I think when it was ten laps to go and I was a little bit more than a second a lap quicker I thought that if these tyres stay like this I can win the race but definitely the tyres were degrading a little bit especially on the option and I didn't have enough."
Bottas, too, was ultimately happy on a day when his podium finish ensured a fourth place finish in the driver's world championship.
"Obviously the higher the (podium) step, the better it is but I think for this season this will do. It's been an amazing year with so much improvement from the team and getting so much stronger and this last race shows how strong we are getting and the curve is upwards and I'm expecting a lot from next year. I'm just really, really thankful that I can be part of this team and that I can drive this quick car."
Daniel Ricciardo started from the pit lane behind team mate Sebastian Vettel after their disqualification from qualifying and he once again showed his pace and fighting abilities as finished just over eight seconds behind Bottas.
Jenson Button produced a fitting conclusion to his season - and perhaps his career - with a fifth place finish for McLaren that included a memorable wheel to wheel battle with Fernando Alonso which initially went the way of the Spaniard.
Button ultimately had the pace to fend off the Ferrari though he had a tough fight to hold off a charging Nico Hulkenberg in the closing stages.
Force India's strong Sunday form might even have had a greater reward had Hulkenberg not received a controversial five second penalty for a clash with Kevin Magnussen's McLaren on the opening lap, a penalty the German disputed vigorously on the car to pit radio.
Sergio Perez was seventh in the other Force India, their sterling bid to unseat McLaren in the Constructor's Championship founded on a strategy of pitting late for the first stop.
Sebastian Vettel's final race for Red Bull was one to forget for the outgoing world champion. Having started from the pit lane he was working his way through the field behind team mate Ricciardo but a slow pit stop on lap 21 didn't help his cause. A late race battle with Fernando Alonso went in his favour and he finished on the tail of Perez.
It was difficult race for Ferrari for Alonso who found a way past team mate Kimi Raikkonen on lap five and then immediately pitted, dropping back into traffic and ultimately a challenging afternoon.
Raikkonen was within a couple of seconds of Alonso in tenth at the flag, three seconds clear of Magnussen whose first lap woes prevented him from challenging for the points.
Jean Eric Vergne enjoyed a memorable mid race scrap with Fernando Alonso but it wasn't Toro Rosso's day, the Frenchman ending the day 12th, well clear of Romain Grosjean who was the Lotus team's only finisher after starting from pit lane and taking a stop go penalty at the end of lap one.
Rosberg's lowest classified finishing position of the year came after he asked to stay out on track and finish the race despite his team asking to retire to pit lane with two laps to go.
An anonymous weekend for Sauber ended with Esteban Guttierez 15th ahead of Adrian Sutil while Will Stevens impressed on his F1 debut by bringing the sole surviving Caterham home 16th and final finisher after team mate Kamui Kobayashi stopped in the closing stages.
Pastor Maldonado retired with flames licking around the engine bay of his Lotus Renault, his difficult season ending with a fourth retirement.
First retirement of the afternoon was Daniel Kvyat whose superb debut season in F1 ended with a whimper when he retired with engine related problems on lap 16, his sixth retirement of the season, though his first in eight races.
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sunday 23rd October
|4||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|6||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|12||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso|
|-||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso|
Hamilton becomes two-time World Champion as Rosberg encounters ERS issues
On the last race with Mercedes-Benz engine, McLaren finished 5th and 11th at Yas Marina