Lewis Hamilton became the fourth British Formula 1 driver to become a double World Champion after winning the final race of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi, while his beleaguered rival Nico Rosberg limped over the line in 14th.
The ‘Dual in the Desert’, as it was labeled, didn’t exactly come to fruition, as the German’s car was plagued by electrical gremlins and allowed Hamilton to run a flawless drive to victory and win the championship by a clear 67 points.
It was an ideal start for Hamilton, whose last championship win came six years ago, jumping Rosberg on the start and led into the first corner. From there, the Brit controlled his race with precision, never allowing his tyres to suffer in the cooling heat of the Abu Dhabi twilight, while also managing his engine settings to a point where he could maintain the gap and also limit the chance of technical failure.
Rosberg’s problems stemmed from his Mercedes’ hybrid system failing completely, relinquishing him of the additional 160bhp for 33 seconds of each lap and as a result put his brakes under extra strain. Under these conditions, Hamilton saw sense and placed his car under more conservative engine settings and at one point even pleaded with his engineers not to turn his car up.
To win the championship, Rosberg needed to take the victory and have Hamilton finish third or lower; however, with less than 20 laps completed, it was evident that the German would not have it his own way as his title rival gradually increased his lead until Rosberg’s car began to falter at half distance. The former Williams driver’s luck only got worse as the race progressed, with his car’s power getting weaker and weaker in the final third of the grand prix and fell down the order and out of the points. Rosberg’s engineer initially requested he retire the car near the end, but holding his pride till the end, the 29-year-old was adamant he would see the flag.
As Hamilton kept his race under control, Felipe Massa and the Williams team felt as though they might get their first win of the season on the super-soft tyres and only lost out to the Mercedes driver by a couple of seconds as the two crossed the line after the 55th and final lap. The Enstone team didn’t completely lose out, however, clinching the third spot in the Constructors’ Championship after their first double podium since 2005.
On his second title, Hamilton told the press: “This is the greatest day of my life.
“2008 was a great year in my life. The feeling I have now is way, way past that. The greatest feeling ever.”
As a VIP in the Mercedes garage, Prince Harry was on call to offer his congratulations over the team radio. The Queen’s grandson enthused: “Lewis, well done for not making the British public sweat. You are an absolute legend.”
Elsewhere in the field, two drivers saw their final race out before moving onto their new teams in 2015; Fernando Alonso finished ninth in his last time in Ferrari red, while Sebastian Vettel took eighth in his final outing for Red Bull before taking the Spaniard’s seat at the Maranello outfit. Elsewhere, Daniel Ricciardo, like his teammate, drove from the pitlane but raced admirably to fourth place; meanwhile, the Force India drivers both raced strongly to sixth and seventh and Jenson Button, whose Formula 1 future is still unknown, managed to race to fifth.
Despite the season being over, the teams will remain in Abu Dhabi to test new components for their 2015 cars, with March 15 marking the start of next season at the traditional opener in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix.