Lewis Hamilton described his victory in Abu Dhabi today as ‘just fantastic’ after he held off a challenge from Fernando Alonso to take victory in the Middle East.
The 2008 champion was all smiles after the victory today, his first since the German Grand Prix back in July.
“This result is just fantastic,” said Hamilton. “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 today. To be able to sustain that kind of pace, under constant pressure, and not make mistakes, is really satisfying.
“For most of the race I was concentrating on managing the gap to Fernando [Alonso]. He's such a strong driver. He'll never give you an inch, in fact. Into the closing laps I found myself beginning to think about victory, 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.
“To have Jenson on the podium alongside me was great – 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 has been fantastic all weekend – the strategy, the pitstops, everything – really top-class. The whole package came together today and I owe everyone a big thank-you.
“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.”
McLaren team-mate Jenson Button nursed his car home to third place. The Brit was without KERS for about half the race, which led to some very unpredictable car behaviour.
“It was a difficult race for me, as I had a KERS Hybrid issue, which is admittedly very rare for us,” said Button. “After about 15 laps it stopped working – and that doesn't just affect your power out of the corners, it affects engine braking too.
“Fortunately, my engineer came over the radio and told me they'd found a way to make it work again – but it meant pushing lots of buttons on the steering wheel every couple of laps because it only returned intermittently. So I'd arrive at a corner and not know whether I had any engine braking because I had no warning. So selecting the right spot at which to brake was tough.
“Still, as I say, it's extremely rare for us to encounter a problem with our KERS Hybrid. Mercedes-Benz has done a great job this year, and in fact I'd say theirs is the best and most reliable unit in the pitlane: a fantastic system, in fact. So as I say it was a rare issue – and, although the problem made for a tricky drive for me, it also made it even more satisfying to manage to keep it together and end up on the podium.
“Last of all, I want to say: 'Fair play to Lewis.' He did a great job today. It's very positive to move towards the end of the season on a high, because it's the best possible way to build for the new season.”
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh was full of praises for both of his drivers after the race today, and is hoping for a seventh victory of the season in Brazil at the end of the month.
“Lewis drove an utterly faultless race today, taking the lead at the second corner and controlling the gap back to Fernando with consummate skill over the remaining 54 laps,” he said. “To put it simply, he was brilliant today.
“Jenson, too, drove a truly excellent race, managing KERS Hybrid problems throughout, and emerging with a hard-won third place and 15 valuable world championship points to consolidate his second position in the drivers' world championship.
“While I'm on the subject of KERS Hybrid, it's worth paying tribute to the excellence of our Mercedes-Benz system. It's been fantastically reliable all season, and has delivered considerable performance benefits too; today's hiccup was therefore extremely rare. So I want to say a big “Bravo!” to all the guys at Brixworth [Northamptonshire, UK], where Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines is based, for a job very well done all year.
“Returning to the subject of today's race, it's always a great feeling to see two Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers on the podium together, and today I'm particularly delighted for Lewis, but also for Jenson, and of course for the entire team too.
“It was Lewis's 17th career grand prix victory, all of them scored for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, his third of the season, and the sixth time this year we've had occasion to pull on our famous Vodafone rocket-red victory T-shirts.
“But 2011 isn't done and dusted yet – from here we'll travel to Brazil, and the famous Interlagos circuit, over whose majestic twists and turns Lewis and Jenson will be trying their damnedest to score Vodafone McLaren Mercedes' seventh victory of the year.”