Formula 1: Dispiriting end to season for Hamilton and Alonso

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (left) and Alpine driver Fernando Alonso at a press conference in Abu Dhabi on Nov 17, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ABU DHABI – Lewis Hamilton was happy to see the back of his Mercedes on Sunday after enduring his first season without a win, or a pole position, in his record-breaking Formula One career.

The seven-time world champion, who made a sensational F1 debut with McLaren in 2007, retired from the final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with a loss of hydraulic pressure three laps from the end, while world champion Max Verstappen in the Red Bull won the race to extend his record to 15 victories in a single season.

“Ultimately, we started (the season) with a car that we didn’t want and we finished with a car that we didn’t want,” the Briton, winner of a record 103 races, told Sky Sports television.

“We were basically stuck with it, just kept trundling away, kept working away at improving it, but the fundamentals have still been there all the way to the end.

“It’s been more of a team-building exercise this year and I’m very, very proud of everybody… Whilst we’re not celebrating a world championship, we’ll be celebrating them still for their hard work and efforts.

“I hope that the struggles this year really provide us with the tools and the strength to fight for many more championships moving forward.”

Hamilton ended the season sixth overall, with teammate George Russell fourth in the drivers’ standings.

It was the third time in 16 seasons that Hamilton had been beaten over the course of a championship by a teammate after Jenson Button did so in 2011 at McLaren and Nico Rosberg in 2016 at Mercedes.

“Right now, I’m not looking forward to another year or anything like that. I’m looking forward to putting now my energy into my family, and to just getting back and seeing the family – I haven’t seen them for a while – and yeah, just relaxing, being healthy, staying positive,” said Hamilton.

Team boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton’s failure to finish summed up a season marked by the car suffering from “porpoising”, or bouncing, on the straights.

“A car that was not at the pace it should have been, third quickest today (after Red Bull and Ferrari) and one breaking down and the other running out of tyres,” said the Austrian of the evening’s result.

Lewis Hamilton in action during the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Nov 20, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Russell, winner in Brazil on Nov 13 in a Mercedes one-two, finished fifth on Sunday behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Sergio Perez of constructors’ championship winners Red Bull. The team ended up third overall in a constructors’ championship they had dominated for the previous eight years.

“We are going to put these cars in reception in Brackley and Brixworth to remind us every single day how difficult it can be,” said Wolff.

“This is a character-building season, not a blip for a race but a full season... now we are just pushing forward for next year. It’s raw, it’s bad and it’s OK to feel like this, but next year we are back.”

Also suffering from disappointment was Fernando Alonso, who failed to finish on the Yas Marina Circuit in what was his last race for French team Alpine.

The Spaniard, who returned to Formula One in 2021 with the Enstone-based outfit, which also took him to his two world titles as Renault in 2005 and 2006, is replacing the retiring Sebastian Vettel at Aston Martin in 2023.

He had hoped to sign off on a high, but was called into the pits to retire on lap 27 of the 58-lap race.

Alpine still secured fourth in the constructors’ standings, but it was Alonso’s sixth retirement in 2022.

“Disappointed for sure,” said the 41-year-old.

“Millions of people are disappointed now. It’s the way it is, it has been a very unlucky season... not unlucky, I think we are not prepared reliability-wise.”

Fernando Alonso in action during the race on Nov 20. Tt was his sixth retirement in 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

In joining Aston Martin, Alonso is pairing up with an outfit that finished seventh out of 10 teams this year in the overall standings.

Still, set to slot into the car as early as Tuesday in the post-season test, he said he could not wait to get started.

The Spaniard expressed hope that the ill luck he had endured this season would be compensated for by better fortunes in 2023 with Aston Martin.

“That’s the best thing of today that it’s one day less to be in green,” he said.

“And tomorrow start with this project with the seat fit and meetings with a few people, then on Tuesday testing the car will be hopefully a good chapter and all the bad luck of this year hopefully compensate next.” REUTERS

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