Lewis Hamilton revitalised by Abu Dhabi victory
Published 14/11/2011 | 04:49
Lewis Hamilton last night departed Abu Dhabi wearing the smile of a winner again after a victory he described as "good for the soul".
Following the most tortuous time of his career, Hamilton took the chequered flag for the third time this year, matching the feat of McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, and 17th of his career.
The triumph was due in part to the puncture sustained by Sebastian Vettel to the right-rear tyre on his Red Bull just two corners into the 55-lap race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Although Vettel managed to trundle back to the garage, the damage incurred to the suspension in particular forced the double world champion to retire for the first time in 20 grands prix.
Hamilton then drove what team principal Martin Whitmarsh felt was "an utterly fautless race" to banish some of the demons that have plagued him of late.
"This result is just fantastic," said Hamilton, who also dedicated the win to mum Carmen, making a rare appearance for this race, and who celebrated her birthday with her son on Friday.
"I'm usually my own biggest critic. I'm always hard on myself when I make mistakes, but I really felt like I maximised everything.
"To be able to sustain that kind of pace, under constant pressure, and not make mistakes, is really satisfying.
"This is so uplifting, for the team and for me. To be able to walk away with a smile feels just fantastic - victory is good for the soul."
Hamilton, though, had to guard against complacency in the closing stages as thoughts of taking the chequered flag started to cross his mind.
"Into the closing laps I found myself beginning to think about victory," added Hamilton.
"But I didn't want to do that really, so I kept saying to myself, 'Don't even go there!'
"It worked. I stopped my mind from wandering, and I didn't allow myself to think about the win until I'd crossed the line."
Hamilton ultimately finished 8.4secs ahead of Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari, with Button 26 seconds down the road.
It means in trailing Button by 28 points with one race remaining, the 26-year-old can now reflect on being beaten by a team-mate for the first time since he entered single-seater racing in 2001.
Hamilton, though, was in the kind of rare jubilant mood that it mattered little, adding: "To have Jenson on the podium alongside me was great.
"It was great for me, great for him, great for the team, and a great boost as we move towards the end of the season.
"The team was fantastic all weekend - the strategy, the pitstops, everything - really top-class.
"The whole package came together and I owe everyone a big thank you."
Button was elevated onto the podium for the seventh time in eight races at the death courtesy of a late pit stop from Red Bull's Mark Webber that dropped the Australian to fourth.
Behind the leading quartet, Ferrari's Felipe Massa was fifth, followed by Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher.
Force India pairing Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were eighth and ninth, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi claiming 10th.