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Hamilton gutted, reflective after F1 title defeat: ‘You can’t win them all’

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Lewis Hamilton was in a reflective mood following his Formula 1 championship defeat in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, but his disappointment was impossible to hide on the podium.

Having entered the race weekend trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 12 points in the drivers’ championship, Hamilton knew that victory may not be enough to capture a fourth crown.

In fact, he knew that mid-October when there were four races to go, such was Rosberg’s lead. Despite taking pole and victory in all four, he wouldn’t be world champion. Rosberg carried himself over the line with four straight second-place finishes.

Hamilton did all he could in the finale to shake Rosberg up, going against team orders by slowing the pack down, pushing his teammate into the clutches of the pack chasing behind. Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen threatened to pass, yet neither could make it through.

In the cool-down room after the race, the disappointment was written all over Hamilton’s face. Even on the podium, he struggled to celebrate with the same enthusiasm as he would a normal race victory. 10 wins, 12 poles – and no world title to show for it.

“Honestly I feel great,” Hamilton said on the podium, curling his lips into a smile that failed to hide his pain.

“There are so many British flags out there this weekend. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who came out to support us.

“Got to say thanks to my family for all their support and especially to the team for doing such a great job. It’s been a real privilege being part of this team. I never would have thought when I joined this team that I’d have this many wins.

“I think that’s 32 wins with this team, so a big thank you to everyone here and back at the factory.”

And just as podium interviewer David Coulthard began to turn away, Hamilton added: “And a big congratulations to Nico of course, his first world championship. Good job mate.”

The two shook hands and embraced, defusing the tension that had bubbled between them throughout the race – and indeed their three years together as teammates.

But Hamilton knew that had it not been for the series of engine failures he’s suffered this year, the world title could so easily have been his. He was left facing impossible odds with four races remaining, and did everything in his power to turn things around, only to fall just five points short.

“I did everything I could these last four races. That’s all I could really ask for,” Hamilton said.

“I’m gonna have a lot of fun tonight celebrating with the team and everyone. You can’t win them all.

“We had a lot of problems this year, that’s why I’m in this position.

“But I’m still grateful for all the success and ups and downs we’ve had as a team.”

And what of his antics with Rosberg in the final stint? Hamilton hid nothing when he talked to NBCSN after the race, saying he was doing all he could to help himself.

“Generally in the last stint, I tried to help myself. I wasn’t getting any help anywhere else,” Hamilton said.

“I didn’t put Nico or anyone else in harm’s way, I didn’t cause the team damage or anything like that. We still got a one-two.

“I think I did everything I could within fair reason.”

Two big debates will rage on following today’s championship finale.

Firstly, was Lewis Hamilton a more deserving champion than Rosberg?

And secondly, did Hamilton overstep the mark with his late-race pace?

The upshot of both is that, regardless, Hamilton’s reign as F1 world champion is over. He will head into 2017 as the underdog, having suffered just the second intra-team defeat of his F1 career (the other coming at the hands of Jenson Button in 2011).

Quite how Hamilton fights back next year may mark the beginning of a new chapter in his F1 career.

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.