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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.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).