Lewis Hamilton wins F1 championship in Abu Dhabi
Mercedes driver ends 2014 with his 11th win of the season to claim second world title
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix and the F1 Championship at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix and the F1 Championship at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain takes the chequered flag to win the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed / Reuters
Hamilton got off to a flying start as he went past pole-sitter Rosberg and then immediately built up his lead on his Mercedes team-mate. But he also benefited as Rosberg suffered a number of technical problems. So in the end Hamilton’s worry about being beaten on the double points system for Abu Dhabi, after going into the race with a lead of 17 points, came to nothing.
Hamilton became only the fourth British driver to win more than one world championship – the first for 43 years - and the 16th overall, as Rosberg once again failed in his ambition to win back to back races.
Watched by his family and girlfriend, Hamilton took his second title six years after his first, as Rosberg finished out of the points and a disconsolate 14th.
“World champion! Oh my God, I can’t believe it” he screamed, before he was congratulated by Prince Harry over the team radio. Hamilton’s 11th win of the season meant he had beaten Rosberg by a massive 67 points. What was all the fuss about? But if Rosberg had won here Hamilton would have needed to come second to clinch the title. Hamilton won six of the last seven races of the season.
“I’ll drive the car like I stole it,” Hamilton promised just before the race, and he was as good as his passionate word.
When the lights went out he started like a drag racer and within 40-50 metres, it seemed, he was ahead of his arch rival with a blistering start from P2. By the end of the second lap he was already leading by 1.4 seconds.
As early as Lap nine Hamilton was told to get ready to come in for fresh rubber and when he did it was a clean pit stop, allowing him to rejoin the race in third place.
There was more good news for Hamilton when on Lap 25, shortly before the halfway stage, Rosberg reported problems with his ERS system and he started to lose about a second a lap.
It was at the same time the sun started to go down on the Yas Marina Circuit – and on Rosberg’s title hopes.
“It feels like more than the ERS,” he told his race engineer Tony Ross. “I’m literally holding back. Please investigate now please. It’s more than the ERS.”
As Rosberg fell back he fell into the clutches of the Williams driver Felipe Massa, who went past on Lap 27 with the German looking helpless. By Lap 28 Hamilton was 13.8 seconds ahead of Massa with Rosberg a further 2.6 seconds adrift.
By Lap 30 there was some urgent concern from Hamilton supporters because he started to fall back towards Massa, his lead slipping from 11 seconds to nine. But it then emerged that Mercedes had turned down the British driver’s engine.
When Hamilton pitted again Massa took the lead and by Lap 33 the Brazilian had a lead of over 15 seconds and was even thinking of his first win since the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2008, when Hamilton won his first title.
It was a forlorn sounding Rosberg who said to his team: “Just get me in the top five or six!”
But Hamilton was still thinking of winning the race, as well as the championship. “Tell me what I have to do,” he asked his race engineer Peter Bonnington.
Meanwhile, when Rosberg pitted again on Lap 35 he rejoined the field back in seventh place. He asked his team: “How I am looking for that position I need in case Lewis drops out?” That was fifth position, with the new points system for this race.
He was told: “It’s not good at the moment,” to which a frustrated sounding Rosberg said: “What the hell does that mean?” He was then told: “Just drive flat out, Nico.”
As Hamilton pleaded with his garage to “turn up the car” his team-mate asked: “Hey guys what’s going on? The car switched off and now the throttle’s all over the place. Get my brake pedal back now please!”
Hamilton started to close on Massa and regained the lead when the Williams drive pitted again after 43 laps. By Lap 44 Hamilton was leading by almost 11 seconds but was told to keep the pace up because Massa was now on super-soft tyres and was cutting into his lead.
But in the end there was no threat from Massa and Hamilton won by 2.5 seconds. It was then time for fireworks and tears.