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Hamilton Sees Title As A Crowning Achievement

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 24 2014

Lewis Hamilton celebrates his 2014 F1 World Championship with donuts.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

On the day he described as “the greatest in my life,” Lewis Hamilton surmised that Her Majesty’s still a pretty nice girl.

“I’m more hoping that I get to go and see the Queen again!” Hamilton said Sunday after his victory in the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix clinched the 2014 Formula One World Driving Championship. On-site praise from Prince Harry as a “legend,” mention in the same sentence with British F1 icons Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart, an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and possible knighthood – these are the spoils of victory awaiting Hamilton as a two-time World Champion during this offseason.

“I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” said Hamilton, whose 11th victory crowned him as the first Mercedes World Champion since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955. “This is the greatest day of my life. It’s really due to all the people around me. 2008 (his first F1 title with McLaren) 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 ever. I’m grateful to God, I’m grateful for my car finishing and really, to everyone, thank you so much everyone. Thank you.”

A perfect start by the Brit from P2 past teammate and pole-sitter Nico Rosberg set the tone for the 55-lapper around the lavish 3.451-mile/21-turn Yas Marina Circuit.

“Yeah! That’s my guy down here, giving me a good start,” Hamilton said. “It was like a rocket! Obviously, we have a sequence that we have to go through and we have to perform at the right time, making sure that you prepare the clutch throughout the weekend, prepare your tires when you get to your spot. I work very closely with the engineer who works with my clutch. He came to my room before the race and asked, ‘How do you want to approach this?’ I said, ‘The same as every time. We don’t need to do any more or any less.’

“When the start goes, when you do the formation lap, you get a feel for how good the clutch is at that point. You have to guide them or give them feedback whether you need more torque or more slip. Anyways, we hit it spot-on. The second part, when you let out the second part and you feed the throttle, that’s when the driver comes in. But it was for sure… it felt like the best start I’ve ever had. Absolutely phenomenal.”

Rosberg, 17 points behind Hamilton as the race began, had earned his 11th pole of the season and third in a row during Saturday’s knockout qualifying. Rosberg needed to win the race under its controversial double-points payout – 50 for a win/36 for second, etc. – in order to clinch his first championship. But the German’s splendid season started to unravel on Lap 24 when his Mercedes began to slow after losing its Energy Recovery System (ERS). A five-time race-winner this season, Rosberg eventually was lapped by Hamilton in the closing stages en route to a crushing 14th-place finish.

Hamilton, winner of the third annual U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Nov. 2, completed the 19-event globe-trotting schedule that began in March with 384 points _ 67 ahead of Rosberg.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was joined on an all-Mercedes-powered podium by Williams Martini Racing teammates Felipe Massa – 2.5- seconds behind Lewis in second – and Valtteri Bottas in third. Massa and Bottas gave the team founded by Sir Frank Williams its first double podium result since 2005 and secured third place in the 2014 Constructors’ Championship won by Mercedes AMG.

“Normally before a race you have butterflies in your stomach and are nervous, but today I felt extremely calm,” said Hamilton, whose 33rd career victory moved him ahead of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso of Spain into fifth on the all-time list. “It was weird; was that a good thing or a bad thing? Obviously it was good!

“Last night I kept thinking that (Sunday) is the big date, something could happen to the car and that would be the championship done. Naturally you think of all the negative things that could happen but I tried really hard to bring all the positives into it, and looked after the car. It helped when Nico’s car was not performing, and when he fell out of the points I knew I could fight Felipe.

”Today was the greatest race of my life.”

Rosberg, meanwhile, saw his hopes of joining father/1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg in that exclusive fraternity dashed by mechanical gremlins and a horrible start. “And the whole weekend all the practicing we did _ of course you can only do it at the pit lane exit _ was not good,” Rosberg said. “I don’t know why this was so, but you don’t pay so much attention to it as you attribute it to the unusual situation. Now we will have to look into it to see what the problem was.

“In such a situation you don’t give up. The hope was still there, as I only had to finish sixth should Lewis retire. So you still hope and pray and try to carry the car as gently around the track as possible _ and at the same time as fast as the car allows you to. And then slowly with every lap that passed hope was vanishing. That was a pretty tough situation.”

Still, Rosberg took time to congratulate Hamilton on his way to the podium ceremonies. “Yes, I said, ‘You deserved it’. It was a hearty situation. He did a little bit a better job than me in the races. Tiny bits that I need to find. He was the best driver on the grid this year and it was a great battle between us. And that is what I am racing for _ for such battles. Of course there have been intense moments between us but most of the time it was simply fantastic.”

Answering a particularly incendiary question about his relationship with Rosberg, Hamilton said, “It’s not a terrible relationship. We’ve been fighting all season as I’ve just explained; there have been good moments and bad moments but we’ve worked together, professionally I think, all year long to push this team, so the team has no problems. I think we deliver to the team to the maximum.

“Without a doubt we’ve had a friendship or a relationship that we built a long, long, long time ago (1997), so that will always be there. He was a very, very fierce competitor this year; he did an exceptional job. He’s going to be quick for a long time. I’ve got to pick up my qualifying pace for next year. It could have been either one of us today. Obviously we both wanted it.

“But I think with our relationship, we’ll continue to try to lift the team up, we’ll work together as we have done all year long. Perhaps things naturally will ease up a little now. He was graceful enough to come up to me and see me after, which I really appreciated. It was really big of him to be able to do that. It’s very, very tough. I know what it’s like losing a championship so we’ll keep working at it.”

Rosberg’s mechanical problem opened the door for Massa, who started fourth alongside teammate Bottas in Row 2. As it turned out, Massa ended his season chasing down the driver who edged him for the 2008 World Championship.

“Lewis, well done, congratulations, because you deserve it; you did a fantastic championship, your team, so congratulations really,” said the Brazilian, who earned the only pole this season not won by the Silver Arrows teammates. “Yeah, it was an incredible race for us. You know when it was 10 laps to go I was a little bit more than a second quicker per laps and I said, ‘If these (Pirelli) tires stay like that then I can win the race.’ But definitely the tires were degrading a little bit, especially that I was on the option. In the last four laps I didn’t have enough, a gap any more compared to him (Hamilton) to catch like I was catching before.

“But I think it was a fantastic job for the team. I’m so proud to be on this team, so really, really, thank you guys. You are really in my heart and I’m so proud to be racing for Williams. It’s just the beginning, we can do a lot more than that. Thank you, guys.”

That sentiment was echoed by Bottas, who along with Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo of Australia, has emerged as one of Formula One’s rising stars.

“It’s been an amazing year with so much improvement as a team and getting so much stronger, and this last race shows how strong we are getting,” the native of Finland said. “The curve is to the up. I’m expecting a lot from next year. But now I can say only that I’m really, really thankful that I can be part of this team and that I can drive this good car.”

Hamilton picked up a Union Jack from a course worker and carried it during his victory lap as well into parc ferme, where he waved it enthusiastically while standing on the front end of his No. 44 Mercedes F1 W05. Hamilton’s winning average speed was 184.982 mph.

“I just cannot believe how amazing this has all been,” said Hamilton, whose 11 victories paced the Silver Arrows to its combined record total of 16. “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 give my thanks and count my blessings.”

FIA Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix results after 55 laps/190 miles around the 3.451-mile/21-turn Yas Marina Circuit, with car number in parentheses, driver, country, chassis/engine, laps completed, and time/gap:

1. (44) Lewis Hamilton, Great Britain, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 55, 1:39:02.619-seconds

2. (19) Felipe Massa, Brazil, Williams Martini Racing/Mercedes, 55, plus-2.5-seconds

3. (77) Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams Martini Racing/Mercedes, 55, plus-28.8-seconds

4. (3) Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 55, plus-37.2-seconds

5. (22) Jenson Button, Great Britain, McLaren/Mercedes, 55, plus-60.3-seconds

6. (27) Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Sahara Force India F1 Team/Mercedes, 55, plus-62.1-seconds

7. (11) Sergio Perez, Mexico, Sahara Force India F1 Team/Mercedes, 55, plus-71.0-seconds

8. (1) Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Infiniti Red Bull Racing/Renault, 55, plus-72.0-seconds

9. (14) Fernando Alonso, Spain, Scuderia Ferrari, 55, plus-85.8-seconds

10. (7) Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Scuderia Ferrari, 55, plus-87.8-seconds

11. (20) Kevin Magnussen, Denmark, McLaren/Mercedes, 55, plus-90.3-seconds

12. (25) Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Renault, 55, plus-91.9-seconds

13. (8) Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus F1 Team/Renault, 54, plus-1 lap

14. (6) Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, 54, plus-1 lap

15. (21) Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 54, plus-1 lap

16. (99) Adrian Sutil, Germany, Sauber F1 Team/Ferrari, 54, plus-1 lap

17. (09) Will Stevens, Great Britain, Caterham/Renault, 54, plus-1 lap

18. (10) Kamui Kobayashi, Japan, Caterham/Renault, retired

19. (13) Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Lotus F1 Team, 26, power unit

20. (26) Danil Kvyat, Russia, Scuderia Toro Rosso/Renault, 14, power unit

Note _ Ricciardo, Vettel excluded from qualifying, illegal front wings; pit-lane start after parc ferme changes. Grosjean qualified P16, 20-place grid penalty for power unit changes, incurred an in-race drive-through penalty in lieu of undropped places.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 24 2014
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