Abu Dhabi GP - Sunday - Race Report

Ham's the Man

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2014

Lewis Hamilton, Abu Dhabi GP 2014 

 © The Cahier Archive


Lewis Hamilton is the man who won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and his second world championship. He did it in style, grabbing the lead from title rival and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg at the start, leading most of the way, and winning his 11th race of the season.

Rosberg's best chance to win the title was to win the race while Hamilton finished lower than third. That didn't happen. Rosberg qualified on pole but lost the lead to Hamilton immediately. Just before the midpoint of the race Rosberg's Energy Recovery System failed and he faded back to finish 14th.

Hamilton was faster even before Rosberg ran into troubles, so Rosberg's only hope would have been if Hamilton had car problems.

"Nico put on an incredible fight throughout the year," Hamilton said. "He was a phenomenal competitor. We met each other back in 1997 and we always said it would be amazing to be racing in the same team. He did an amazing job today and very sad obviously to know that his car wasn't quick enough that 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 (before the podium ceremony) very, very professional, and I just said fantastic. He said 'you drove really well'. And the same to him, all year long he drove incredibly well, especially in qualifying, so hat off to him."

Rosberg was gracious but disappointed.

"All in all, Lewis deserved to win the championship," he said. "What happened to me had no impact in the final result; it did not change anything, so there is no point focusing on that. He did just a little bit better than me. The positive is I've been the better qualifier over the last two years and that gives me a good base. I came very close and it is a pity it did not work out. I'm proud to have been here with the team. It's been very intense, a very special weekend for me with so much support."

After the team told Hamilton about Rosberg's car problems, Hamilton turned down his engine power.

"I was asking the team if I could turn down the power," Hamilton said. "When the gap started to increase between me and Nico, I was thinking OK, I've got to back off, got to look after the tires. So look after the car, started avoiding curbs, all those kind of things. A couple of moments down the straight I was rubbing the cockpit, I was saying 'come on baby, we can make it. Stick with me.' I really did. You won't see it but I did. Several times.

"But the car was feeling good and ultimately at the end I was able to push, I wanted to win the race, I wanted to have that battle with Felipe Massa. He obviously came in for those tires and I thought, 'He's going to catch and get the win,' but managed to just keep him behind me."

Felipe Massa was pretty quick in his Williams. He led laps 32 to 43 and then stopped for some super soft Pirelli tires. The fresh tires allowed him to close in on leader Hamilton, but then the tires started to degrade.

"It was a close race," Massa said. "I didn't think the victory was there, but it was so close at the end. It was good to be racing and pushing the Mercedes. I hope this is a strong building block to go on for next year. The team progressed so much throughout the year, which is why we were able to get podiums in the second half of the season; we will continue this forward movement into next year."

Bottas qualified third but a slipping clutch dropped him to eighth. He worked his way back to third, so Williams had its best finish of the season with both drivers on the podium.

"We were very competitive today," Bottas said. "I got a bad start and the race was compromised after I was stuck behind a few cars, so to walk away with a podium is incredible. It was a good race; I could really push and fight.

"The team has grown and developed throughout the season, from our first race in Melbourne to our best result here. It's a great start to build on for next year and to continue the team's great history."

The Red Bull drivers had illegal front wings in qualifying and so Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel had to start the race from the pits. Ricciardo charged to fourth.

"I think it was pretty much a faultless race from all sides," Ricciardo said, "from the strategy, to me and the pit stops, everything was good so we did everything we needed to. I had fun passing, it wasn't boring out there, so it was pretty much what I asked for.

"One spot better would have been nice, but fourth is really cool from the pit lane. It's been pretty much a perfect season, as perfect as it can be without holding a world title, so no real regrets, no complaints. It's nice to not only start the season well, but to finish it well also and I think all the way through it was good - we had a strong summer as well, so the start, middle and end were pretty good!"

Vettel could only manage eighth place in this last race with Red Bull.

"I felt there was more," he said, "but once I got stuck behind Kevin (Magnussen) at the beginning it was quite tough, so I can't be completely happy with today; when you race you want to finish as high up as you can and today I think we had the pace to finish higher.

"The last six years have been an incredible journey, obviously we didn't expect that when we started working together - you can never expect four driver titles and four constructors' championships in a row. You get to know some people in a very good way and build friendships that will last a long time. You go through happy days and sad days, you go through them together and I think I learned a lot."

Jenson Button, in what might be his last F1 race, brought his McLaren home fifth.

"That was tough!" he said. "I think we made the best of what we had this evening: in terms of strategy, we did the right thing, but we never really had enough pace to attack the cars in front. So, fifth was as good as it was going to be. Getting the maximum from the car is all that can be asked of a racing driver, and I think I've proved this year that I'm still at the top of my game.

"Since it's the last race of the season, I'd like to say a huge 'thanks' to Tom (Stallard) and Bernie (Collins), my two race engineers, who've done a fantastic job this year, as have all my mechanics. The whole team has been so supportive, which is lovely.

"It's been a good day for me, but a much better day for my old team buddy Lewis (Hamilton). Winning two world titles is an absolutely amazing achievement. Congratulations to him - he deserves it. I'm sure tonight will be fun - I'll celebrate a good end to the year with my family."

Force India had a fabulous night with Nico Hulkenberg finishing sixth and Sergio Perez seventh.

"After struggling with the car on Friday and in qualifying, I think we can be proud of today's race and our performance is a good sign for next year as well," Hulkenberg said. "The car performed at its best; I had a good balance and I had the confidence to really push.

"There were just a few laps after the pit stops when I was managing the tires, but other than that it was flat out all the way. The long final stint on the super soft tires was brave, but it turned out to be a great strategy by the team and it really worked out well."

Perez made his final pit stop too late.

"If we had been on the super soft tires a bit earlier then maybe we could have been closer to Button at the end of the race," he said. "Looking back at the season overall I think everyone in the team has done a tremendous job and we should feel very happy about what we have achieved. I've enjoyed this season and now that I know the team I'm looking forward to coming back stronger in 2015."

Ferrari certainly was not happy to have Fernando Alonso in ninth and Kimi Raikkonen in 10th.

"Today," Alonso said, "my time with Ferrari comes to an end, as does a very tricky season, in which, even if we were unable to do much against the technical dominance of our rivals, we fought all the way to the very end, all of us did our utmost, putting our hearts into it.

"Today's race was difficult to manage but at the same time it was very emotional for me; after five years it's not easy to say farewell to a team with which I have grown so much over the past five years, both as a driver and as a person. I thank all the Ferraristi for their support. I will miss the team, the fans and Italy. Even though we are going our separate ways, I feel I have lived through a unique experience which any Formula 1 driver would have loved to have had."

Raikkonen commented: "It was a very difficult race but we knew right from the beginning that this track would be tough for us. The start was good but then, at the first stop, I already lost a few places and from then on I couldn't move up the order. The car handled well and I had no particular problem, but today we lacked the speed we needed to attack.

"All season we have faced a series of difficulties which we put a lot of effort into solving and we learned a lot from that. We know which direction we need to work in to be competitive as soon as possible and I have absolute faith in the team."

There was, of course, one very happy man after the race - Hamilton.

"It's very hard to soak all this up," said the 2014 world champion. "When you're going through the race, when you're coming here this weekend, there's so much pressure from around you, you're just trying to ignore it, trying to keep your eye on the ball.

"I just cannot believe how amazing this has all been. Coming to this team last year, the decision to come here, when a lot of people said it was the wrong choice. The steps we took last year and then coming into this year, it was just unbelievable and then again, as I said, the fan support has been phenomenal. I never in a million years thought I'd have that kind of support, so as I said before, this is the greatest moment in my life. It's very hard to... it feels very surreal. It feels like an out-of-body experience. I feel like I'm back here watching this going on, it's not really happening. So I'm going to really make sure I gift my thanks and count my blessings."

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