Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker to the young pretenders to his crown on Sunday when he completed 2019 with a masterful triumph at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, his 11th win this year and the 84th of his career.
The six-time world champion started from his record 88th pole position, was untroubled, led every lap and reeled off a lap record for the Yas Marina circuit on his way to his 50th victory from pole.
His race engineer Peter Bonnington told him his performance had been “a master class” as he slowed down before delivering a series of ‘donuts’ to delight the fans.
“Honestly I’m proud, definitely, but I’m super-grateful to this incredible team and all the people at Mercedes who have continued to push this year,” said Hamilton.
“Who would’ve thought, at the end of the year, we had the strength and we’ve learned, and tried, to extract more out of this beautiful car? “I’m so grateful to Team LH! I travel around the world to different countries and I get to see people who inspire me and send me messages that lift me up.
“Thank you for watching. Thank you for supporting. I feel so happy today, man.”
Asked during an official post-race interview with former driver David Coulthard about the competition in 2020 from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who finished second, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who came home third, but faced a post-race investigation into fuel irregularities, Hamilton was generous.
“These guys. There’s a lot youngsters coming through,” he said.
“It’s great to be in a period of time when there’s lots of youngsters coming through – and I’m privileged to be here while they come through.”
The leading young tyro, Dutchman Verstappen conceded that in Sunday’s race he was not quick enough to catch Hamilton.
“To be P3 in the championship was a nice ending,” he said. “We are all working hard, but it’s good to take some time off and be with family and friends – and come back stronger next year.
“There were a few little things in this race that were issues, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. We had to do things differently to Ferrari, our pace was decent, but Lewis was too quick.”
Leclerc, speaking before the stewards met to consider Ferrari’s alleged fuel irregularity, said: “I’m extremely happy about this year.
“I’ve learned a huge amount – thanks to Seb. It’s been a great year and the realisation of a dream I’ve had since I was child to be with Ferrari and in Formula One and it’s up to me to get better and give them the success they deserve.”