McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton cashed in on Sebastian Vettel’s first lap misfortune to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
The result is Hamilton’s third victory of the year and shoots him back into contention for a fourth-place finish in the final drivers standings.
It was an improved driving performance too from Hamilton, who has been disappointed by his 2011, where Vettel has dominated.
“That was one of my best races, in terms of my own performance, not making any mistakes. I feel I didn’t make a single mistake,” Hamilton, the 2008 F1 champion, said.
“What with the things that have gone on, the pressure I’ve been under, with the doubt that has surrounded me. I’m just massively proud to have put that kind of performance together, and to have come on out on top.
“I said to myself as I slowed down, just being able to hold off one of the best drivers in the world (Alonso) throughout the race is something that is very, very tough to do, so this is great.”
Hamilton has had a problematic 2011 off the track, but he said he was feeling clear-headed in Abu Dhabi which helped him put in a fine race.
“It is early days yet, but hopefully this is the start of something very good. We’ve another great race ahead of us in Brazil and I just have to keep my focus on that,” he said.
“But you know how it goes. Anything can happen. I just have to keep my mind on the game.”
Meanwhile, Vettel was left to bemoan his first lap tyre blowout which ended his hopes of matching Michael Schumacher’s achievement of 13 wins in a season.
“At the exit of the first corner everything seemed fine but when I turned in I tried to catch the car but I couldn’t do it any more and I spun off. On the way back (to the pits) I damaged the suspension so badly,” Vettel said.
“I don’t know what happened. We lost pressure all of a sudden out of the exit of Turn One. I don’t why. There is nothing that I did differently to any of the other laps. We need to find out why, maybe I cut the kerb at a funny angle.”
Vettel’s team Red Bull missed out a podium spot dramatically (for the first time in 19 races) with Mark Webber needing to pit on the penultimate lap.
However, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was philosophical when he said: “That’s why we’ve celebrated every single victory with the satisfaction that we have, because winning grands prix is tremendously difficult.
“It needs everything to come together and it’s been the most remarkable season for the team. To have won 11 of the 18 so far, to have achieved all but one of the pole positions, to have won both world championships…it would have been great to have maintained our unbeaten run here but unfortunately…it was not to be.”