Hamilton clinches championship in style, Rosberg accepts defeat with dignity

2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix review

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Testing suggested it and the first race all-but confirmed it. There may have been 22 drivers on the grid when the season began at Melbourne, but only two of them had a chance to win the championship this year.

The unapproachable performance advantage Mercedes enjoyed with their W05 chassis and PU106A V6 turbo hybrid power unit guaranteed the title would go to either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg.

But that performance came at a price. Even at the final race of the year Mercedes had not yet mastered their machine. It was only good fortune their latest attack of gremlins did not prove decisive in the championship.

Hamilton’s sprint start

Hamilton took control of his destiny the moment the five red lights were extinguished. For the eighth time this year – and the third race in a row – Rosberg had bumped him back to second on the grid. But that advantage was eradicated before they even made it as far as turn one.

“It felt like the best start I’ve ever had,” Hamilton enthused afterwards. “Absolutely phenomenal.”

He was asked how much of the credit for his meteoric getaway belonged to the athlete and how much the car deserved. “Very little is the athlete,” Hamilton answered somewhat modestly.

“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. Anyway, we hit is spot on. The second part, when you let out the second part and you feed the throttle, that’s when the driver comes in.”

When the lights went out the two Mercedes moved forward as if they were connected to each other – then in the second phase Hamilton’s shot decisively ahead. He drew alongside the other car so quickly there was no point in Rosberg swinging left to try to cut him off.

At the end of lap one Hamilton already had the vital one second gap in hand to keep Rosberg out of DRS range. His pursuer never got back within it.

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Bottas bounces back

Rosberg’s best hope of keeping Hamilton from the title had been to keep him behind at the start and then hope for one of the Williams drivers to get in the mix. But not only had he lost the lead, there was only one Williams in the hunt for the podium. Third-placed Felipe Massa stayed within a few seconds of him during the first stint, while a slow-starting Valtteri Bottas fell behind four of his rivals.

Among them were the two Ferraris, Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Fernando Alonso – until lap five, when Alonso slipped past at the end of the second DRS zone. Alonso then seized the initiative, calling on Ferrari to make his pit stop immediately.

Meanwhile Daniil Kvyat sprang an attack on Raikkonen three corners after Alonso had got through, and the next time around Bottas also demoted his fellow Finn. It was the beginning of a tough race for Ferrari.

At the end of that lap Kvyat and Raikkonen followed Jenson Button into the pits, and the trio resumed in the same order. But they had fallen into the traffic trap and Bottas was able to jump the lot of them by staying out four laps longer.

Ricciardo climbs the field

After his first pit stop on lap eleven Bottas rejoined in tenth place behind a trio of drivers who had started the race on the soft tyres. The Red Bull pair had reached the front half of the field having started in the pits.

Daniel Ricciardo had got himself ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who was holding up Sebastian Vettel. With his superior straight line speed Bottas was eventually able to pass all three, but it took him until lap 24 to get ahead of Ricciardo.

When Magnussen headed for the pits on lap 21 Vettel followed him in, and the pair were split by Esteban Gutierrez when they rejoined the track. But while Magnussen had plumped for the super-soft tyres, Vettel had gone for softs and found them much more to his liking, and was soon past the Sauber and the Mclaren.

Having hit clear air Vettel made progress quickly, but that came to an end when he reached the Force Indias. The Mercedes-powered cars proved too quick in a straight line to pass, and Vettel ended up falling back behind them after his last pit stop.

Ricciardo, meanwhile, had been able to break free of them while on fresher tyres after making his first pit stop on lap 27 – the last driver to do so. That left him with only the Williams and Mercedes ahead – and one of those was about to hit trouble.

Car trouble ends Rosberg’s hopes

On lap 23 a car problem struck one of the Mercedes which ultimately left it limping to the finish out of the points. By chance it was the car running in second place which hit trouble, but had it been the other car it would have swung the outcome of the championship.

Instead it left Rosberg enduring the destruction of his championship hopes in slow-motion. It began with what looked like a simple locked wheel at turn 17, but this was no mere driver error. As in Canada, Rosberg’s Energy Recovery System had failed, leaving him with a loss of engine power on the straights and a more difficult job stopping the car at the corners.

On the pit wall Mercedes scrambled to find a solution but Rosberg was in dire trouble, losing three seconds to Hamilton on the next lap. He soon had Massa bearing down on him and on lap 27 the Williams shot past him on the straight travelling over 20kph quicker.

Meanwhile Hamilton had been alerted to his team mate’s plight and quickly backed off as well, no double recalling how both cars had suffered the same problem almost simultaneously in Montreal. He made his second and final pit stop on lap 31 and rejoined on Rosberg’s tail, but easily passed his team mate within a few corners.

Desperately trying to salvage something, Rosberg’s team even briefly considered leaving him out without making another pit stop as his loss of power served to protect his rear tyres, but this was soon abandoned. Following his second stop he asked the team if he was still running high enough to be in a position to win the championship if Hamilton’s car stopped. “Not good at the moment,” came back the reply.

Rosberg’s car was now mortally wounded. He reported his throttle was “all over the place” and his brake pedal had gone long. Eventually the team suggested he retire but Rosberg chose to soldier on to the end. It was an admirably defiant refusal to give up, even when staring at certain defeat, which recalled his audacious bid for pole position at Silverstone four months ago. But this time it was not to be rewarded.

“I was rubbing the cockpit”

Hamilton has suffered the trauma of losing a drivers’ championship due to a technical problem, and was alert to the danger of history repeating.

“I was asking the team if I could turn down the power, because I realised 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 tyres’. Look after the car, started avoiding kerbs, 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.”

When he was warned about the growing threat from Massa during the race, Hamilton replied “I’m not racing Massa any more.” Later he urged the team not to tell him to turn up his car’s engine. But as Rosberg’s situation became increasingly hopeless Hamilton could afford to pay more attention to the Williams looming in his mirrors. “Nico looks to not be a threat now,” advised Peter Bonnington as the laps ticked down, “so we can fight for this”.

Massa’s long first and second stints and the lack of any immediate threat from behind him due to his team mate’s problems meant he could afford to take a punt on the super-soft tyres for the final stint. But even when he was taking a second per lap out of Hamilton the gap always seemed slightly too large for him to overcome.

On the 55th lap, Hamilton was still over two seconds ahead of the Williams. As he accelerated out of the final corner he lifted both arms from the steering wheel, punched the air, and became world champion for the second time.

Hamilton reclaims the championship

Hamilton was flanked by the two Williams drivers on the podium, and Ricciardo sealed a remarkable recovery drive to fourth place which had echoes of Vettel’s run to third from the pits at the same track two years ago.

McLaren will now make the decision over whether to retain Button’s services in light of the knowledge that his fifth place today was all that kept Force India from beating them to fifth in the constructors’ championship. The VJM07s scored their best result since Bahrain: Nico Hulkenberg was sixth, fuming at a five-second penalty for forcing Magnussen off the track, Sergio Perez seventh.

Vettel came in eighth ahead of the two Ferraris. Further back Sauber concluded their first ever point-less season and Will Stevens brought his Caterham home on his grand prix debut. Team mate Kamui Kobayashi retired in the pits with a vibration on his car.

And in defeat, Rosberg was a model of magnanimity and good sportsmanship. Even as he drove back to the pits and the team apologised for his ERS failure, Rosberg admitted “it wouldn’t have made a difference today anyway”. He told the world the same afterwards – Hamilton was the quicker driver on race day, as has usually been the case this year.

Hamilton was equally gracious in return, praising his team mate’s formidable qualifying performances which have repeatedly forced Hamilton to dig a little deeper in the races, and given us some memorable clashes.

The finale itself may not have been one of them, but it at least ensured the derided decision to award double points had no bearing on the outcome of the title fight.

That was something even Hamilton finally revealed he was grateful for. “Coming to the last race, knowing it’s double points, which… geez… do you think it was a good idea? Didn’t feel like a good idea when we came into it. I’ll take the points though…”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “Hamilton clinches championship in style, Rosberg accepts defeat with dignity”

  1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    24th November 2014, 0:37

    I’m so happy he’s won it!
    But a very very gracious in defeat move by Rosberg. Huge respect!

    1. What I find a bit weird is that everyone, Toto, Lauda, even Nico himself are saying that Lewis was the better driver and with more wins the deserving champion, but what would’ve happened if it was Hamilton with the ERS failure?

      I find it hard to imagine Rosberg saying things like “Hamilton was the best driver this year” if he was the champion, and no doubt everyone from the Mercedes team would’ve said Nico deserved the title. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

      1. @mantresx what’s the point on your comment? obviosly they would have said Rosberg was the best driver, including Hamilton. Do you think Nico really thinks that? doubt it. He’s massively dissapointed, but you have to show respect, and you have to say those things. He won afterall.

      2. Actually, I could well imagine Rosberg saying something along the lines of “Hamilton was unlucky not to be WDC”. He would know that, but for the misfortune, he could not realistically have won. He knew that going into this final race. This would not change the history books, and Rosberg would still be WDC, so it wouldn’t really cost him anything.

      3. Had Nico won, I don’t think there would have been so many comments along the lines of “he deserved to win the championship”, or “he was the best driver”. Of course there would have been congratulatory comments, and such, but because Lewis had the most wins, I think that’s why he got the “deserved to win” comments. Had Nico won, he would have just gotten the normal “congratulations” line of comments.

    2. YES HE DID IT!.

      Mercedes did a great job and as much as I want Lewis to win, I want more people in the mix next year. Hopefully Honda, Renault and Ferrari will get their act together and Williams will improve their already good car to give this guys a run for their money.

      I hope Lewis keeps his #44.

      Bring on 2015!

    3. “Rosberg’s best hope of keeping Hamilton from the title had been to keep him behind at the start and then hope for one of the Williams drivers to get in the mix.”
      Yes, the Williams got into the mix as Nico wanted and repeatedly said during interviews and not just 1 Williams. What an irony.
      Nico’s decision to congratulate Lewis Hamilton after a long and sometimes acrimonious fight season long has raised his profile which dipped quite a lot during the season. Now, let’s hope the antics and theatrics which he displayed in Monaco, Canada & Spa do not get repeated next year. Let the 2015 fight be sincere at least. And most importantly, the rate of car failures by MercedesAmgF1 has to reduce. It is just ridiculous.

      1. Oeiiiiiiiiiiii! (another davidnotcoulthard account) (@)
        24th November 2014, 11:31


        Has the Red Bull-Renault RB6 sprung to mind?

      2. I was pleasantly surprised to see him come to the winners room after the race and the two drivers had a congratulatory embrace and compliments. Then later, Nico was magnanimous with his complements to Lewis. I was really glad he did not play the “I had mechanical problems” card, but instead admitted Lewis was faster and that his mechanic problems won’t have made the difference anyways.

        1. @riccarr

          fully agree, class act by Nico considering he would have been gutted firstly by the Merc car failing to run 100% and 2ndly, by Lewis’ cannon ball start and disappearance into the night,

  2. Congratulations to Hamilton on a well deserved championship.

    It will no doubt be lost in the detail given that the race decided the WDC, but that penalty on Hulkenberg was ridiculous, and almost certainly cost him 5th place. The incident in question was simply two drivers engaging in the usual first lap argy bargy.

    What happened to the supposed change of policy mid season regarding racing incidents, allowing the drivers to race and only penalising clear infringements?

  3. In my view, this year was the worst championship in recent years. The racing between the two Mercedes was totally nothing special, with Rosberg clearly showing his lack of experience of racing at the sharp edge (of course Hamilton won it despite not being as fast…), and the racing at the back of the field was HORRIBLE!

    Such a bad, bad year… :(

    1. I see you didn’t watch last year’s.

    2. Are you kidding me?

      Racing was spectacular.

      1. @jcost Between the Mercedes cars for me there isn’t much to say except for Bahrein (created only by well timed SC) and Brazil was fun to watch aswell.

        I don’t agree it was a boring season but for me the fight for the title was.

    3. Nothing special? Lots of action between all teams. Drivers driving as close as they dare to edge of adhesion and beyond. Going to edge of the last of the late brakers and not purposely take anyone out. It’s been a fantastic performance from everyone. So thank you Guys.

    4. In my view, this year was the worst championship in recent years.

      I think you have been watching a completely different season to me. The 2 Mercs spent all season duking it out, and all the way through the field there has been wheel-to-wheel racing.

      It has been outstanding, even if you don’t compare it to the last few, which have generally been terrible.

      1. I also didn’t enjoy this season overall, those to merc’s were to good. It’s not good enough for me when only teammates battle for the championship. Also the political stuff and losing the backmarker teams, Bianchi’s accident… terrible stuff.

        1. Fair enough. You are entitled to your opinion (even if it is wrong :-P lol).

          The off-track stuff has been ridiculous, I grant you, and it would have been nice to see different teams in the running for the championship. But at least it wasn’t just one driver in the running.

          Bianchi’s accident, of course, was a dark day for the sport, and will colour this season. But if you take just the racing, and ignore what position people were racing for, this has been the best in several years IMHO.

          1. NO it wasn’t one driver in the running it was two from the same team who’s car is a country mile in front of the other cars.One of the worst F1 seasons in 50 years of watching. I prefer to see more drivers and cars in with a chance of winning the title. Hope next year is better.

    5. I don’t know how you can say that. Ok, so Mercedes dominated. But its not like they been dominating the series for the past several years. This year was fantastic. And to have a year where the race winner decision comes down to the last race; and then even further when Massa comes roaring back on fresh tires to threaten Lewis’s win, even if it wouldn’t have made a WDC difference it still would have taken some shine of the final result. How can you not be happy with a series of the likes of went went on this season? Lots of great battles.

  4. 2014 being done brings makes me very emotional. It’s been a terrific season, with incredible races, very complex cars, political affairs, huge controversies on track… it’s been a wild ride ! and the championship went to the wire, with a fierce battle between team mates.

    I don’t really mind who wins these days, since my guy is now gone (and the other one never had a shot), I just want to enjoy it, and 2014 really made it worth it.

    When you spend your weeks reading F1 material hoping for the next race and making calculations, even for the teams fighting 6th in the constructor championship, because you are not a fan of anyone, you’re a fan of the sport, and your thoughts are with your passion at all times… and then it ends, you really feel empty. And I’ve never felt it as much as today…!

    Thanks for everyone involved ! it’s been amaizing ! on twitter, on the telly, here in the comments, @keithcollantine too. Roll on 2015 !

    1. +1 man

    2. +44
      It’s going to be an empty next couple of months.

    3. @fer-no65 Who’s your other guy who never had a shot?

    4. This season has been pleasantly surprising. The W05 has been one of the most dominant cars since the MP4/4 but that’s done nothing to dampen the racing. Credit to Mercedes for allowing their cars to go out and race each other. The season was also the coming of age for the likes of Ricciardo and Bottas definitely two exciting drivers to watch.

      The only blip in this season was the accident at the Japanese grand prix. Jules had shown some great driving in a mediocre car, I can only hope that we see Jules back in F1 again.

      Roll on Australia!

    5. Second that. This was a fantastic season.

      Now I see Ferrari has just dumped Mattiacci and brought in a new guy … the surprises just don’t stop!

      And we also have to wait to Dec 1st to see what McLaren announces on their driver line up. We get to see what happens with Button, and presumably Alonso steps in, while Jenson moves onto enduro racing or something. This season just ain’t over.

  5. What a great season. Awesome. Until 2laps to go before the season ended I wasn’t a fan of Nick Rosberg. I was actually inclined towards LH from the beginning to clinch the title as NR felt like not as good a driver as LH when he couldn’t get pass in Bahrain, qualifying in monaco, corner cutting in Canada, hitting LH in Germany, losing from lead in Russia, but all those went out of my mind with his way to accept defeat. Went down fighting. Earned respect. I will be rooting for him next season to be WDC with a close fight between NR, LH, SV, FA and FM,VB,KR,NH,SP in the mix its going to be a mouthwatering prospect for 2015.

    1. I second your comments about Nico’s driving and behavior. I would not have said he deserved to win, had he done so, because throughout the season Lewis was the better driver … not to be argumentative.

      Also, I was surprised at how … humbled and magnanimous his comments were to Lewis. I wasn’t much of a Nico fan myself, will still root for Lewis next year, but at least he (Nico) did not go out in poor losing style.

  6. It would have been fun to see Massa battle Hamilton for the win at the end, but under the circumstances, I doubt that Lewis would have made much of a fuss about letting him by anyway. It’s so great to see the resurgence of Williams F1 this season. I really hope that they will be challenging Mercedes for wins next year. As for Rosberg, surely he must be disappointed, but he was very gracious in defeat, and there’s a good chance that he’ll have another shot at the WDC in 2015. It’s also a good thing that we (and the sport in general) were spared the inevitable and endless backlash that a double points driven championship winner would have caused. The right man got the trophy.

  7. Not an exciting year for me. I guess all of the Vettel bashing and denigration of the championship by those who hate him has made me less than enthused about this one. If it didn’t matter for Vettel, it matters not for Hamilton.

    1. If it didn’t matter for Vettel, it matters not for Hamilton.

      While I see where you are coming from, there were several big differences this year.

      First, although the Mercs were clearly ahead, just as RB were in seasons past, their 2 drivers fought tooth and nail throughout. Vettel was generally unmatched in the RB, barring a few where Webber challenged him.

      Also, the quality of the racing throughout the rest of the field this season has been head and shoulders above the past few. I have loved watching the action up and down the grid.

      In general this season’s action has blown the last few out of the water.

    2. Red Bull made a farce of the sport with their team orders and blatent sabotage of Webber’s car. Additionally, Vettel was made to look better than he was by only having to compete against a mid-pack driver like Webber.

      This year the Mercedes has been dominant but Rosberg is a better driver than Webber and the fight at the front has been fascinating. It’s been the first season worth watching since 2008 imo (maybe 2012).

      1. Agreed; great year. It really baffles me how some people are saying this was a boring year.

  8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    24th November 2014, 4:25

    Congrats to Lewis for an absolutely sensational season and for a 2nd WDC! He had to dig deep for a whole year to earn this and he did it in style. I don’t think we’ll ever see a more conclusive battle between any 2 drivers on Sunday as we’ve seen this year.

    Nico was gracious in defeat (a little less so in his interview but at least he was honest) but massive kudos to him for staying out on track and finishing it even though he was lapped. That showed character that I had not seen in him before. I think he’s growing as a person (just like Lewis has) and may someday be a champion that all of us can cheer on.

    1. Rosberg has always had the character. Lewis on the other hand was a cry baby.

  9. So many questions when the season started. This season was suppose to be a PR disaster for F1 due to poor sound, cars breaking down often, extreme fuel saving killing the races and bla bla bla.

    It was not. The sound issue was present way longer than I expected but it was the case probably because many other worries did not materialize; (i) fuel saving was not different from other years despite a sharp reduction of fuel tanks and (ii) cars proved more reliable than many anticipated since race 1 in Melbourne, so big props to the engineers including those of Ferrari and Renault who failed to build a Power Unit as strong as Mercedes’ whose superb technology created a divided field: those powered by Mercedes and the others but Red Bull’s form was a good indication that a better PU and improved integration will make them a threat again because they’re on the chaser seat now because W05 Hybrid dethroned them. However, dominant Mercedes offered us a tremendous season because it was a battle of two “great friends”, “not so-great friends”, “no friends at all”, “colleagues” and “colleagues who are friends for PR reasons”.

    A few dark moments shadowed the fantastic 2014 season like the outcome of the Japanese GP with Jules Bianchi crash and small teams running out of cash. So we still need to work on safety and financial distribution scheme, the former is the hands of FIA and teams while the latter depends heavily on a man who seems to be out of touch: for me, Bernie should not come back in 2015, the season Mexican GP will come back and Williams is promising their real come back, so 2015 should be even better.

    1. I would even say that Fuel saving seemed to play far less of a role than in the past, possibly because a) the mercedes had such potential speed at the start that we hardly ever saw them going full out and didn’t even know they weren’t and b) the new engines offer far more ways to save fuel while driving by adjusting all the interesting bits and finding a new mix.

      I agree with you that the season proved in several aspects to be more interesting racing than we could have expected @jcost. And yes, safety does need more still more work (it can’t ever be enough, because we move the boundaries all the time). And Bernie, yeah, sigh.

      I just hope Caterham can somehow survive and would be massively happy if the guys from Marussia found a way forward/onward too after giving Bianchi a very good car to be able to get those 2 crucial points.

  10. Was I the only one to notice, that Rosberg’s DRS went mad as well? It seemed to open in one of the turns, I believe it was televised twice.

    1. Yes when he left the track his DRS was wacky… electronic problem for sure…

    2. @ringridder did it play a part in his off-track moment?

      1. Yes, because the braking systems from this year are electronically controlled as part of the energy recovery systems.

    3. We saw it on the instant reply, and Steve Machett (sp) called it out right away.

      1. My commentators didn’t see it. I believe it opened at start / finish, causing him to run wide in Turn One. However, as I was watching the car I didn’t pay close attention to what corner it was. They all look the same anyway in Abu Dhabi….

  11. I think that both Hamilton and Rosberg come out of this with a lot of credit. Hamilton was a gracious and modest winner and Rosberg was sporting in defeat. Good to see.

    And Williams had a good strategy! They got Bottas past the cars that had sped past him at the start and whilst their gamble with Massa didn’t pay off, it was good to see them giving it a go.

    1. Oeiiiiiiiiiiii! (another davidnotcoulthard account) (@)
      24th November 2014, 11:35

      @jules-winfield They didn’t quite lose anything with Massa, though.

  12. As a Lewis fan, watching the start of the race, heart beating with anticipation, sitting on the edge of my seat … when the lights went out and Lewis ROCKETED past Nico to blast off round the corner and take the lead … THAT was a fantastic start to the race!!!

  13. I see the FIA are taking no action on Rosberg for contravening the rules on radio transmissions in Abu Dhabi. Just like they took no action for him cutting the chicane in Canada to maintain his lead and his deliberate off track move during qualifying at Monaco. Not to mention the lack of a safety car in Germany when Sutil was stuck on the racing line. the FIA did their best to aid Rosberg but justice prevailed and the right man won. Well done Lewis.

    1. Deliberate track move? Lol. you Hamilton fan would say anything to put a veil on his weaknesses. Remeber that Nico defeated Hamilton 11-7 in qualifying. Even if hamilton could have completed that flying lap, you can’t be sure he would have taken pole. Nico was already on provisional pole.

  14. Excellent season, excellent racing, great win for Lewis, respect for Nico, terrific performances from Jenson and slightly humiliating for Seb – plus the rapid rise of some serious young talent. They just needed to add a small speaker system connected to the ERS that plays a sampled version of the V8 – and it would have been perfect!

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