Q and A with Lewis Hamilton
McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton went in to the season finale at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi last weekend with only a slim chance of taking the 2010 drivers crown, but his determination to win the race was just as strong as ever. He performed exceptionally well all weekend, qualifying second and finishing the race in the same place, but despite missing out on the crown, he was happy with the way things went....
A great result in Abu Dhabi - but was it a case of ‘what could have been'?
We had a great car in Abu Dhabi, yeah. It was probably the best car we'd had all season - the balance was just perfect, the car felt strong in the high- and low-speed corners and the tire deg was good - so I felt like I could push on every lap. Unfortunately, I came out just behind Robert Kubica after my tire stop, and it was just too difficult to make a pass stick around this place, even though I gave it my absolute best effort.
That's not to say we got the strategy wrong, because I don't think we did, just that the Renault had incredible top-speed, Robert drove a rock-solid race, and the circuit layout made it really, really tricky to try and get up the inside anywhere and put my car in a place where Robert couldn't defend. Perhaps that's something that the circuit designers could look at for next year - because it would make the circuit a better challenge for all the drivers.
But, once I was clear of Robert, I had the pace to match Sebastian [Vettel] - I just didn't have enough laps to catch him. But I don't want to take anything away from him: he drove a faultless race and is an extremely worthy world champion.
Was there a particular point when you felt your own title hopes were starting to drift away from you?
Not really. We saw throughout the summer that the Red Bull was the car to beat, and even though we brought a lot of developments to every race, it became clear that they were able to react equally, and that made it extremely hard for us to close the gap.
Of course, my non-finishes at Monza and Singapore didn't help my momentum, but that was also true of my mechanical retirements in Spain and Hungary. Overall, I don't think it's worthwhile to look at the ‘what ifs' of a season, because every driver has moments when he could have done better, or would have done something different, so you just have to accept what you have and make the best of it.
For me, it was an honor to once again be fighting for the title in the final race of the season for the third time in my Formula 1 career. And I come away from this season having learned and developed as a driver - and I think that will stand us in good stead for next season, when I think we can be even more competitive than we were in 2010.
What gives you that belief?
It's just a feeling that we learned a lot as a team this year - we had a very positive atmosphere within the organization from the start of the year, and we only built on that during the season. Jenson's arrival made us a stronger team and I think our joint input helped us to stay in the hunt until the very end. Obviously, our 2010 car was quite a significant update of our '09 car, but now I think we have a very good baseline from which to evolve this car into 2011.
We're growing all the time as a team - I had a new race engineer in 2010 and with one season under our belts, we can be even stronger next year. I think Jenson will be have a very positive influence on our development over the winter so that we can start testing the new car very aggressively when testing resumes in February.
And I think that we'll be even hungrier. I want to congratulate Red Bull Racing for their 2010 season - they were a fantastic competitor, and Sebastian and Mark [Webber] are both great drivers, but I know that we already have our eye on both titles in 2011.