- Mar 22, 2014
For Lewis Hamilton, 2014 was a story of fighting back -- whether in the standings or on the grid, the Brit found himself repeatedly behind teammate Nico Rosberg. And yet, after one final leapfrog of the pole-sitting German at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Hamilton leaves Yas Marina as not just the victor, but the 2014 Formula 1 Drivers' Champion.
With his 11th race win of the season, Hamilton became the first British double-world champion since Sir Jackie Stewart in 1971, taking the title over Rosberg by a double-points-infused 67 points. A comfortable win in the end, the two Mercedes drivers' final battle for the season cruelly proved to be short lived, as ERS woes put a stop to Rosberg’s challenge by lap 25.
Go here to read Jordan Wilkins’ full race recap, and read on for a look at some of the big talking points from the Abu Dhabi GP.
Imperious Hamilton Delivers Champion's Drive
If there was any doubt before, Lewis Hamilton's drive in Abu Dhabi proved there could only be one man deserving of the 2014 world championship.
Showing why he was the more deserving driver of the Mercedes pair this year, Hamilton drove exactly the sort of race becoming of a world champion. Saying before the weekend he would 'drive it like he stole it', and once the lights went out Hamilton put in the sort of getaway to make even The Transporter jealous – his Mercedes seemed to be shot out of a cannon, blasting past Rosberg into the first corner. After that, the Brit never looked back on his way to victory, as no matter what the circumstance, Hamilton seemed to have an answer -- when it was the early pressure from Rosberg, he calmly extended the gap, then preserved his used super-softs while maintaining a two second lead. When Rosberg's problems precipated a need to manage the car, he did so, taking advantage of the gap between himself and Massa to ease up a little and ensure a finish. When the danger had passed, he immediately picked up where he left off, responding to a charging Massa, even without the use a more aggressive engine setting. He was truly in complete control - even the minutiae of his stops in the pit-box seemed to be perfectly on target.
Having said that, it is a great shame Rosberg's attempt ended so ignominiously. As mentioned, he had pole, and had proven once again that if he could get his car set-up to the pinpoint specifications he so desired, it would be Hamilton who had to catching his rival in front. Over this weekend we once more got to see why Rosberg can be counted on to challenge Hamilton again next year, as he has repeatedly proven that he can match Hamilton's supposedly superior qualifying pace. Furthermore, for someone who has repeatedly been the target of accusations against his character, it was great to see the heart he showed in fighting through his problems to finish the race -- against his engineer's advice -- and the humility he showed in seeking out Hamilton to congratulate him before the new champion took to the podium.
All-in-all it was a pleasure to watch Hamilton drive on Sunday, and that goes double for both drivers at Mercedes AMG Petronas throughout year. They delivered a title-fight for the ages. Putting in arguably his best drive of the season, Hamilton was the better man on both the day and the year, but Rosberg proved himself a worthy adversary, and the prospect of a renewed intra-team title fight makes me all the more excited for 2015.
Williams Looking to Go from Strength to Strength in 2015
Coming perhaps closest to a win since Canada, Williams have to be liking their chances of returning to the top step of the podium in 2015.
Scoring a double-podium at Yas Marina, the Williams FW36 showed that it can threaten even the might of Mercedes AMG given the right circumstances. Having a season's worth of knowledge to develop the FW37, who's betting against them being even more competitive next year?
After all, they possess the best engine on the grid, a better packaged car than both McLaren and Ferrari, and two very strong drivers -- Valtteri Bottas in particular is a popular tout as a future world champion. Surely, there's plenty to be optimistic about.
Their excellent performances in recent races -- particularly at circuits like Brazil and Abu Dhabi -- show that the car is packaged to compete anywhere, and that the team is capable of developing the car despite their lower finances, as their race results only improved as the year went on. Perhaps the only area where significant change is needed is the most fixable, as their conservative approach to race strategy was the most limiting aspect of their performance.
Really the only concern is that the significant disparity in budget between Williams and their immediate rivals will start to catch up with them, but there are no guarantees in this sport. The return of the McLaren-Honda partnership has many salivating, but it must be said that having an extra year to develop their engine has its drawbacks, as they've missed out on 19 races of testing their rivals have enjoyed. Ferrari will certainly spend big, but seem to be committed to a rebuilding project that doesn't forecast for immediate contention, while Red Bull will be stuck with a Renault engine that could remain significantly underpowered.
Unlike many teams in the paddock, Williams seems to have little problems on the management side of things, and that counts for a lot too. Claire Williams and Pat Symonds seem to have the team firing on all cylinders, such that there's little doubt they can build on their 2014. Abu Dhabi was an excellent send-off for the FW36, expect next year's iteration to be even better.
- Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both disappointed in their final races at their current teams, coming eighth and ninth respectively. While their moves in 2015 certainly come with a large amount of risk, it's hard to argue they could have picked a better time to make them.
- Conversely, Jenson Button -- likely to also be on the move in 2015 -- showed once again why he deserves to be kept around. Qualifying has never been his strong suit, but in taking fifth, he employed the sort of race craft you'd think Ron Dennis would want at McLaren. He took part in an excellent duel with Alonso, and put in some fantastic laps to ensure he made the necessary gaps at the pit stops. Let’s hope we see him on the grid next year.
- If there’s to be an odd man out at McLaren, it should be Kevin Magnussen. The Dane has largely underwhelmed in recent races, and should be given more time to hone his skills in GP2 – such a move helped Romain Grosjean, and at 22, there’s still plenty of time to find his way in the sport. On the other hand (if you’ll allow me to put my tinfoil hat on for a second), a teammate who is unlikely to match him for pace is probably want Fernando Alonso wants.
- Daniel Ricciardo had another stellar drive to take fourth, after starting from the pit lane. If Renault can give Red Bull a better engine next year, another three wins for the Australian would an expected minimum.
Thanks for reading the GP Debrief this year. Watch this space in the coming weeks for a breakdown of each team’s 2014 performance, and stay tuned to racedepartment.com over the winter for plenty more F1 news, analysis and previews.
So, got any thoughts on King Lewis, Williams, or the driver merry-go-round? Sound off below!