TITLE DEFENCE: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton says he will race even harder to defend his 2014 Formula 1 Drivers' title. Image: AP / Luca Bruno
ABU DHABI, UAE - Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has vowed to race even faster next year to defend his 2014 Formula 1 title won here on Sunday at the Yas Marina circuit.
It came when he won the 11th race of his campaign here, finally getting the better of rival and team mate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes finished 1-2 in the Drivers' championship.
Rosberg threatened to upstage Hamilton with double points on offer in the final race but went out with a whimper as he crossed the line 14th - despite starting from pole position for the 11th time this season – with a car gradually dying on its wheels.
STRONG YEAR AHEAD
Despite that failure, with such a dominant car Mercedes will be hard to catch next season and - judging by his phenomenal acceleration at the start of Sunday's race - so will Hamilton, who said the day after the race:
"It is going to be a dream to be able to go into next season and go in even stronger. That will be the goal. I have absolute faith in the team that we will come in very, very strong through 2015 year."
That sounds ominous, considering how Mercedes pulverised the competition through 2014: winning 16 of 19 races, taking 18 poles, finishing 296 points ahead of Red Bull, which had won the Drivers' and Constructors' titles for the previous four years.
Hamilton added: "I think it's really important to continue improving and I believe one hundred percent that the team will do that.
"I'm looking forward to battling with people."
LITTLE TO PROVE
There is little to suggest that such battles will be anything but one-sided, which must be worrying for Red Bull and Ferrari – the latter failing to win a race for the first time since 1993 and only fourth in the 2014 Constructors' standings – especially as there may be more to come from Mercedes.
Hamilton explained: "I believe we can improve the engine and car. I know we are making positive steps that way. I’m looking forward to going into the factory, downloading every bit of input I can, and working on the areas I can improve."
It will be hard to improve on Sunday's performance, however. Hamilton's start will go down in F1 legend. He passed Rosberg with a phenomenal burst of acceleration, effectively ending the race just seconds after the lights went out.
With 33 career wins, Hamilton has little to prove. Yet he feels he did silence some doubters this year. "There was all that talk that 'Lewis cannot make his tyres last because of his aggressive driving style’," he said, “but through the races this year I think I have proved time and time again that I use less fuel, (that) I am able to uts my tyres as good as anybody."
Hamilton does need to do better in qualifying, though, especially if Rosberg improves his race-day performance having yet to win back-to-back races in his career.
"Nico did a great job, especially with his qualifying laps," Hamilton said, “but I will look into the detail to see how I can improve next year."
Rosberg, meanwhile, will be back testing in the car today (Nov 25 2014).
"I am not really in the mood for it," the 29-year-old German driver said, “but as it is optional, maybe that is a sign that I'm already motivated again."
Rosberg said it was "a bit hard to watch" Hamilton's title celebrations after coming so close - with Hamilton only 17 points ahead before the final race. The deciding race settled a stressful campaign that severely tested the friendship of once teenage karting rivals.
Having provoked Hamilton by predicting he would crack under pressure, Rosberg proved to be a gracious loser. "I said ‘You deserved it’. It was a hearty situation. He did a little bit a better than me in the races, tiny bits that I need to find.
"He was the best driver on the grid this year."
GOOD TO GO
Hamilton was eager to play down the rift, which led to heated rows at the Monaco GP in May and the Belgian GP in August.
"There have been good moments and bad moments but we've worked together all year to push this team," Hamilton said. "So the team has no problems."
The other teams? Well, they do...