It's Lewis! Abu Dhabi GP review

By on Sunday, November 23, 2014
Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Lewis Hamilton walked into the post-race press conference beaming and took his seat in the middle chair on stage. The protocol of having non-English speaking drivers to begin by explaining their race in their own language allowed Hamilton a couple of minutes of contemplation.

Hamilton bowed his head – his flat-peaked cap covering most of his face – as he tried to take in what had just happened. After a while he stared around the room in disbelief, occasionally breaking out into a knowing smile.

Hamilton ended the season 67 points ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, courtesy of the anomalous double points, but this was a title in which he was frequently playing the hunter, having to catch-up with Rosberg in the points – largely thanks to unreliability – or in the races – largely thanks to Rosberg’s superior Saturday performances.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was little different.

Hamilton had a scruffy first lap in Q3 and went wide at the penultimate corner before locking up into the final bend. His second hot lap was an improvement, but so was Rosberg’s, and the German secured another pole position.

But Hamilton’s deficit was not to last. Hamilton shot off the line, “probably my best ever start,” and relegated Rosberg to second before they’d even completed the first couple of hundred metres.

In fact so tardy was Rosberg’s getaway that he had to fend off fourth-placed starter Felipe Massa, who had profited from a slipping clutch for Valtteri Bottas, who dropped to eighth.

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Hamilton immediately pulled clear of Rosberg and after the first round of stops the game stabilised around the 2.5 second mark, with Rosberg often faster across the first part of the lap before Hamilton extended the advantage throughout the final sector.

Suddenly, Rosberg slipped four seconds back, having locked up and run wide on the approach to the domineering Yas Viceroy hotel.

But he’d surely be able to regroup? The first sector of the next lap was worryingly slow and when his middle sector demonstrated a significant loss of time it was clear that something was wrong with the Mercedes.

“Problems with the power,” screamed Rosberg, who was informed by his race engineer that his ERS had failed. The result was that the Mercedes was a wounded beast, particularly on the two long straights which constitute the middle section of the lap.

Rosberg’s race consequently turned into a salvation job. Fifth would secure him the title if Hamilton’s car suffered a terminal problem and he quickly turned his attention to that position.

Massa breezed by within a few laps and came into contention for victory.

Hamilton made his second stop for Primes on lap 31, handing the lead of the race to Massa. The Brazilian continued at a rapid pace and when Williams finally pitted him on lap 43 – for a fresh set of Options – he emerged in second place, 11 seconds down on leader Hamilton.

Massa pushed on and whittled the gap down by over a second a lap until the best of his Option tyres were gone. Ultimately his valiant attempt fell 2.5 seconds short but he nonetheless claimed his best result in two years.

Bottas wound up in third place having stayed out longer than his rivals across the opening stint of the race. He emerged from the pits in fourth, having been eighth, and moved into third when he eased by on Rosberg.

Red Bull/Getty Images

Red Bull/Getty Images

Extraordinarily fourth place went to Daniel Ricciardo.

Both Red Bull drivers were excluded from the race due to the front wing flexing – which contravened the regulations. Having changed the parts Ricciardo started from the pit lane on Prime tyres and made his way forwards, Ricciardo put in a stunning drive as he extended the life of his tyres and kept up a rapid pace.

Jenson Button put in another fine drive as he claimed fifth for McLaren while Nico Hülkenberg recovered from a questionable time penalty while fighting with Kevin Magnussen to take sixth, ahead of Sergio Pérez.

Sebastian Vettel had a similar approach to Ricciardo but couldn’t make his way forwards as efficiently while Ferrari rounded out the top 10, with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen ending the team’s dismal year in similarly dire fashion.

Rosberg eventually ended up in 14th place, having battled on valiantly in his crippled car. He spent much of the race skirting around sixth or seventh place before the car properly gave up the ghost with four laps to go and he toured around to at least see the chequered flag.

Rosberg was commendably gracious in defeat but ultimately it was Hamilton’s day as he claimed his second world championship.

"This is the great day of my life," he said.

"2008 was a special time in my life; the feeling I have now is way, way past that and above and beyond. It's the greatest feeling I've ever had.

"This has been an incredible year, I cannot believe how amazing it has all been - coming to this team, when people said it was the wrong choice, and the steps we took last year and this year is unbelievable."

Hamilton finished the press conference by posing for photos and lapping up the adulation from his audience. It'd been a long time coming, but he'd finally secured his second title.

Mercedes AMG Petronas

Mercedes AMG Petronas

144Lewis HamiltonMercedes55Winner250
219Felipe MassaWilliams-Mercedes55+2.5 secs436
377Valtteri BottasWilliams-Mercedes55+28.8 secs330
43Daniel RicciardoRed Bull Racing-Renault55+37.2 secs2024
522Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes55+60.3 secs620
627Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes55+62.1 secs1216
711Sergio PerezForce India-Mercedes55+71.0 secs1112
81Sebastian VettelRed Bull Racing-Renault55+72.0 secs198
914Fernando AlonsoFerrari55+85.8 secs84
107Kimi RäikkönenFerrari55+87.8 secs72
1120Kevin MagnussenMcLaren-Mercedes55+90.3 secs9
1225Jean-Eric VergneSTR-Renault55+91.9 secs10
138Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault54+1 Lap18
146Nico RosbergMercedes54+1 Lap1
1521Esteban GutierrezSauber-Ferrari54+1 Lap14
1699Adrian SutilSauber-Ferrari54+1 Lap13
1746Will StevensCaterham-Renault54+1 Lap17
Ret10Kamui KobayashiCaterham-Renault42+13 Laps16
Ret13Pastor MaldonadoLotus-Renault26+29 Laps15
Ret26Daniil KvyatSTR-Renault14+41 Laps5

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