'Legend' Lewis Hamilton is king of F1 after Abu Dhabi triumph
British driver secures title with yet another Grand Prix win as rival Rosberg runs out of luck
Lewis Hamilton became only the fourth British driver – and the first in 43 years – to win two Formula 1 world titles as he stormed to victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The win secured Hamilton his second championship, six years after his first, and earned the 29-year-old a place in the pantheon of F1 greats. Only 15 drivers had hitherto won more than one world title and Hamilton's feats this season elevate him to a hall of fame that includes Britons Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark and Graham Hill, as well as legends such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna.
"Legend" was the word Prince Harry choose in the message he sent on the team radio from the pits as he cheered on the Mercedes driver. "Lewis well done, you're an absolute legend". Hamilton's response was short but to the point. "Wooohooo! World champions!" he exclaimed. "I can't believe it."
Certainly few people believed Hamilton would win with such ease. Before the start of the race Hamilton had promised to "drive the car like I stole it" as he went in search of the victory that would finish off Nico Rosberg's challenge once and for all.
Pole-sitter Rosberg knew from the outset that he required something special in order to deny Hamilton the title, the German driver needing to win the race and hope the Briton finished lower than second if he was to claw back his 17-point deficit and snatch the crown from Hamilton.
But as the sun set at the Yas Marina circuit, it also went down on Rosberg's title hopes. The German could only watch Hamilton roar past him at the start and he had lost 1.2 seconds to his team-mate by the end of the first lap. By lap ten Hamilton had extended his lead to 2.7 seconds, allowing him the confidence to make the first pit stop, but the decisive moment of the day-night Grand Prix occurred on lap 23 when Rosberg' Mercedes started to suffer problems with the energy recovery system, which caused him to lose a second a lap for the rest of the race.
The fault scuppered Rosberg's chances of glory and the German finished in 14th place, a miserable end to a season that had promised so much at one stage. But Hamilton has grown stronger as the championship progressed, winning his 11th Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi and his sixth out of the last seven races.
"It was a good start, probably the best start I'd ever had," reflected Hamilton, whose family – including long-time girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger – had flown out to support him.
"Going into the race I had a couple of different options," he said afterwards. "If I was behind then we'd see how it goes until the first stop but if I was ahead I knew I had to really, really race... Qualifying wasn't perfect but we got it right for the race."
And Hamilton was magnanimous to Rosberg in his hour of triumph, saying: "Nico put on an incredible fight throughout the year. We met in 1997 and always thought we would be competing together. He was graceful enough to come up to congratulate me. He just came into the room, very professional and he said: 'You drove really well.' And the same for him."
Rosberg's woes and the double points on offer in the final race meant Hamilton finished 67 points clear of his rival, a stark contrast to his 2008 triumph when the Briton edged out Felipe Massa for the world crown by just one point. Yet asked two compare the two titles and Hamilton had no doubt which one meant more. "2008 was a great year in my life," he said. "The feeling I have now is way, way past that. The greatest feeling ever."