Hamil­ton’s great­est mo­ment

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

ABU DHABI: A tear­ful Lewis Hamil­ton joined the elite ranks of dou­ble For­mula One world cham­pi­ons yes­ter­day after a nerve-rack­ing drive to vic­tory in the flood­lit, sea­son-end­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

In a race over­shad­owed by the ever-present spec­tre of me­chan­i­cal fail­ure after the Bri­ton’s Mercedes team­mate Nico Ros­berg suf­fered an early loss of power, Hamil­ton pow­ered to his 11th win in 19 races.

The 29-year-old, who took his first ti­tle with McLaren in 2008, be­came Bri­tain’s first mul­ti­ple cham­pion since Jackie Ste­wart in 1971 and only the coun­try’s fourth.

“Lewis, thank you very much for not let­ting the Bri­tish pub­lic down,” Great Bri­tain’s Prince Harry told him over the ra­dio from the pit wall as the che­quered flag came down. “You are an ab­so­lute legend.” Hamil­ton, cry­ing on the podium as the an­them sounded and with his voice cracking in later in­ter­views, per­formed a slow­ing down lap with the Bri­tish flag flut­ter­ing from the cock­pit and the words ‘Ham­mer Time’ writ­ten on it.

“World cham­pion. Oh my God, I can’t be­lieve it, thanks ev­ery­one,” he had shouted over the ra­dio be­fore park­ing up and em­brac­ing his fa­ther, pop star girl­friend Ni­cole Scherzinger and fam­ily.

The vic­tory was a record 16th of the sea­son for Mercedes, who had al­ready col­lected the con­struc­tors’ crown, and for the first time the win­ner took 50 points in an un­prece­dented and con­tro­ver­sial dou­ble points fi­nale.

“This has been just an in­cred­i­ble year. I can’t be­lieve how amaz­ing,” said Hamil­ton. “This is the great­est mo­ment in my life. It feels very surreal. (Win­ning in) 2008 was spe­cial but the feel­ing I have now is above and beyond. It’s the great­est feel­ing I’ve ever had. Thanks so much ev­ery­one.”

Ros­berg fin­ished 14th after start­ing on pole and 17 points adrift, the much-vaunted ‘duel in the desert’ be­com­ing a night­mare after dark for the Ger­man son of Fin­land’s 1982 cham­pion Keke.

He had suf­fered prob­lems from the 25th of 55 laps, then com­plained about los­ing brakes as he fell down the or­der, still hop­ing against hope that a sim­i­lar mis­for­tune might be­fall Hamil­ton and re­vive his chances.

When the team asked him to pit and re­tire with only a hand­ful of laps to go, Ros­berg asked to stay out so he could at least end the sea­son on track.

“Sorry it didn’t work out but you drove like a cham­pion,” said Mercedes tech­ni­cal head Paddy Lowe. “We come back next year to have another go.”

Ros­berg, who gal­lantly shook Hamil­ton’s hand af­ter­wards, did not need to tell any­one that he was dis­ap­pointed but he said it any­way.

“All in all, Lewis de­served to win the cham­pi­onship. What hap­pened to me had no im­pact, it did not change any­thing so there is no point fo­cus­ing on that,” he said.

“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.”

Brazil­ian Felipe Massa fin­ished sec­ond for Wil­liams in the race, after look­ing like he could win it, with Fin­nish team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas third. “Not bad for an old man,” said a de­lighted Massa after his best re­sult since 2012, when he was at Fer­rari.

Be­hind them, Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo fin­ished fourth for Red Bull with Hamil­ton’s for­mer McLaren team­mate Jen­son But­ton fifth in what may have been his last race in F1.

Force In­dia duo Nico Hulken­berg and Ser­gio Perez were sixth and sev­enth while out­go­ing four-times cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel was eighth in his last race for Red Bull.

The man he will re­place at Fer­rari, dou­ble world cham­pion Fer­nando Alonso, was ninth and ahead of Fin­nish team­mate Kimi Raikko­nen.

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