For the first time since 2009, Formula One has a British champion. Lewis Hamilton came first in the final race in the 2014 season to beat team mate Nico Rosberg to win the world driver’s championship. It was an emotional last race of the season: Sebastian Vettel’s last race at Red Bull and Fernando Alonso’s last race at Ferrari, and with the fate of Jenson Button still undecided.
Hamilton only had to come second to win the championship, even if his team mate won the race. Anything above sixth meant he won the title no matter what. Mercedes once again locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying, with Rosberg starting on pole, but a fantastic race from Hamilton made that irrelevant. Within four laps, Hamilton was a second and a half ahead of Rosberg and putting in the fastest laps. Rosberg turned to plan B, keep up with Hamilton and hope the Brit picked up one of the notorious mechanical failures that had been following the team all season.
Unfortunately for Rosberg, he found himself under attack from his own car. By lap twenty five, almost half way through the race, the German was complaining about a loss of engine power, and his engineer reported Eers had failed (meaning breaking would have to be done mechanically). Rosberg fell down the rankings as his car slowed. “Just driver flat out,” Rosberg was told by his engineer. “There’s nothing else you can do.”
In the penultimate lap, Rosberg was told to pull into the pits, as there were “too many problems on the car.” The German insisted on finishing the race though, and finished thirteenth in the race, second overall in the championship.
After the race, Rosberg went to see Hamilton but, after all the tension, the snide comments, and dark looks that this season has been littered with, Rosberg was gracious in defeat and congratulated his team mate.
“Nico put on a phenomenal fight throughout the year,” Hamilton said, and he was disappointed that fight could not go to the last race.
The race was not easy for Hamilton, however. Once again, the Mercedes’ biggest competitors, beside each other, were the Williams cars. After the final round of pit stops, Felipe Massa moved into second place behind the man that took the 2008 championship from him. Hamilton, trying to ensure he did not have the same problem as his team mate, was not using as much power as the Mercedes had, and an unusual tire strategy for the Brazilian meant Massa looked like a threat to Hamilton. Massa closed a ten second gap to three and a half seconds, but did not have enough to take his first win in over six years. Rob Smedley, head of vehicle performance and Massa’s old engineer, was not disappointed with the outcome, though:
“Not too bad for an old man, eh?”
For Massa to win the race and Hamilton win the championship would have been a strange repetition of Hamilton’s last championship win, and Massa’s last race win. In 2008, another emotional race, Massa won the race, but Hamilton’s fifth place finish lead to his winning the championship. It was almost comical to see the two drivers on the podium together.
Third place was taken by Massa’s team mate, Valtteri Bottas, making the race the first double podium for Williams since 2005. The team has grown more than any other team this season, with a new driver and new members of staff in the garage and on the pit wall. Williams is still growing. Massa said on podium:
“So proud to be part of this team. We can do a lot more than that.”
“So much improving as a team. The curve is to the up.”
The team finished in third for the championship, ahead of Ferrari (where driver Massa and head of vehicle performance Smedley left at the end of last season), and Bottas finished fourth individually in the driver’s championship.
The worst kept secret in the F1 world was officially confirmed on Thursday, with Ferrari announcing Alonso’s departure and his replacement as the now ex-world champion Sebastian Vettel. Alonso’s last race with Ferrari was not his greatest. He started behind his team mate, which is not something the Spaniard is used to, and finished in tenth. Alonso spent a lot of the race battling Jenson Button for ninth place, and later on the Force India of Nico Hulkenburg.
It was the end of a strange season, with so many low points: the money problems of Caterham and Marussia, many drivers uncertain of their seats for next year, and the still shocking crash in Japan. But there have been many highs too, especially if you happen to be a Mercedes supporter (or a Williams fan, I’ve found).
Now we start the long winter, with the 2015 championship starting in March. There’s a lot for all the teams to do, and I’m sure there will be no lack of activity. We look forward to hearing the announcements of drivers for next year, and to seeing how everyone builds on their finishes of this season next year.
All quotes from Sky Sports F1 coverage.