Dethroned Lewis Hamilton insists he sees his future at Mercedes despite clashing with team bosses again as he lost his world title to Nico Rosberg in a tense finale to the Formula One season in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton comfortably won the year’s final grand prix but Rosberg held his nerve to finish second and claim his first drivers’ championship, emulating the achievement of his father Keke 34 years previously.
The Briton ignored orders from Mercedes and persisted with a tactic of slowing down – a bid to threaten Rosberg’s hold on second place and boost his own chances of retaining the title.
Three-time champion Hamilton remained bullish about his controversial strategy – called unsportsmanlike by former champion Nigel Mansell – but praised his car, despite costly mechanical problems earlier in the season, and looked forward to next year.
“I did everything I could. There was no point sitting up front, winning the GP and having him come second. I had to try,” he said.
Of the prospect of being asked to explain his refusal to obey team orders, he said: “I’m looking forward to it.”
I am a sportsman no I would not do this thank you— Nigel Mansell CBE (@nigelmansell) November 27, 2016
This is wrong sorry— Nigel Mansell CBE (@nigelmansell) November 27, 2016
Hamilton added: “I did nothing dangerous so I don’t feel I did anything unfair. We were fighting for the world championship. I was leading. I control the pace. That’s the rules.
“Nico is going to enjoy this. It is an amazing feeling when you win a world championship. I don’t want to take anything away from that, he did everything he had to do this season and I hope we both have cars as his was this season so we can fight again next year.
“I am grateful for the wins I had. It is an amazing feeling to have a car like we have had this year. I am looking forward to continuing to drive for them in the future.”
Rosberg, who only needed to finish in the top three to guarantee the title, admitted his relief after holding off third-placed Sebastian Vettel and the mercurial Max Verstappen.
“It’s really incredible. It’s an amazing feeling because the race was so, so horribly intense,” said the German.
“Lewis was trying to back me into everybody else. He did it really well. They were coming up behind with two laps to go, and this is the world championship we’re talking about – if I drop behind those two, if I make a mistake... Crazy Max was after that [Vettel] so I couldn’t let anybody past.”
The Rosbergs are the second father and son to win the F1 title, after Britain’s Damon Hill followed in late father Graham’s footsteps in 1996.
Hamilton has clashed with Mercedes repeatedly throughout the season, complaining about his car’s reliability problems while fierce rival Rosberg enjoyed a better performing vehicle.
Former world champion Jenson Button was forced to retire just 12 laps into his farewell race after 17 years in F1.