Lewis Hamilton was left to reflect on “the greatest day of my life” after he became a two-time Formula One world champion with a dominant victory at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Brit deservedly claimed the crown with his 11th victory of a phenomenal second season with Mercedes, and after taking the chequered flag all the emotion of a tough title fight with team-mate Nico Rosberg came flooding to the surface.
Standing on the podium, with the national anthem as a backdrop and his family below following a surprise visit, tears welled in Hamilton’s eyes.
“I can’t really explain how much this means. It means even more than the first one. It feels like it’s the first time,” he said.
“This is the greatest day of my life, the greatest moment of my life.
“It feels very surreal, like an out-of-body experience, like I’m back here [indicating behind him] watching this going on, that it’s not really happening.”
Asked to explain his thoughts behind his sentiments, Hamilton added: “Well, 2007 was a very bad experience.
“Obviously losing the championship [on the final day] I fell to a low I couldn’t control.
“In 2008 Felipe won the race and won the championship for a second, but then the last corner I got it back.
“For me I lost it, won it, lost it, won it again, and whilst it was a great experience, my emotions were shot.
“That year I was just immature. I didn’t have the knowledge I have now and I didn’t approach the race the same as I did today.
“Normally you get butterflies in the stomach, feel a bit nervous, but today I went into the race thinking ‘I feel extremely calm’, which was really weird. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
“Last night I was thinking ‘Jeez, tomorrow is the day. We could go into the race and something could happen to the car and that would be the championship done’.
“Naturally you just think of all the negative things possible and I worked really hard to bring the positives into it.
“That knowledge and experience got me through the race.”
Mercifully, the controversial spectre of double points that had hung over this race like a bad smell did not come into play, with Rosberg’s title challenge rapidly unravelling due to an ERS (energy recovery store) failure.
The German, who remained in contention for the title ahead of the race, eventually finished a lowly 14th having been lapped by Hamilton moments before the finish.
Graciously, Rosberg made his way to the ‘green room’, where the top three cool down before taking to the podium, to also offer his best to an old friend who, for the most part this year, has been a bitter enemy at times.
Hamilton added: “He was very, very professional.
“He said ‘you drove really well’. I said the same to him. All year long he has driven incredibly well, especially in qualifying. Hats off to him.”