Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were in reflective mood after fighting for victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, praising each other as well as the retiring Fernando Alonso.
Vettel was chasing down Hamilton in the closing stages, setting the fastest lap of the race but eventually finishing less then three seconds behind the 2018 drivers’ champion. It was the 73rd victory of Hamilton’s career and he was keen to point out how much he enjoys fighting with four-time champion Vettel, having been the main two title contenders this season.
“It’s been a real honor and a privilege racing against Sebastian,” Hamilton said. “I’ve known him since the Formula 3 days and he’s always been a honest, hard-working racing driver and he’s always raced his heart out. He did a fantastic job this whole season.
“There’s so much pressure on us all. Don’t ever look at our shortcomings as anything less than we’ve given our best. I know next year he’s going to come back strong so I am going to try and make sure I come back with it but I am very grateful for the good times.”
Vettel returned the compliment after the two rivals ended the race doing donuts either side of Alonso on the pit straight, who finished 11th in his final grand prix.
“(Hamilton) is the champion and he deserves to be the champion. It’s been a tough year. I tried everything I could in the last laps — I really enjoyed it. I was catching a little bit but I think he controlled the pace at the front. I would have liked it to have been a bit more wheel to wheel.
“A long year, a lot of races. Congrats and as you said I will try — I think our whole team will try to come back stronger to make sure we give him a harder run into next year.
“But final word, also well done to Fernando. I think the last years have been very tough for him. We will miss him.”
Hamilton agreed with Vettel, admitting he will miss his former McLaren teammate, having only ever raced alongside him in Formula 1.
“Of Fernando, a true legend,” Hamilton added. “It’s been a real honor and privilege in the period of time that he was racing. Even before I got to Formula 1, I was watching him and admiring what he has achieved.
“I was asked all weekend, ‘Will you miss him?’ And naturally I don’t really feel like I miss another driver but I think the sport will miss him — we will definitely miss him being in the sport.”