Hamilton hails battler Rosberg

Hamilton hails battler Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton hailed Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg as a "phenomenal competitor" on Sunday after the beaten German extended a congratulatory hand to his triumphant Formula One title rival.

"Perhaps things naturally will ease up a little now," said the Briton, a double world champion after Rosberg's bid to thwart him was hampered by engine troubles that left him out of the points.

"He was graceful enough to come up to me and see me after, which I really appreciated. It was really big of him to be able to do that."

The two have been pushing each other hard all season in a  campaign reminiscent of the great battles of yesteryear between Brazilian Ayrton Senna and French team-mate Alain Prost at McLaren.

Boyhood friends since their karting days, the two Mercedes drivers tested their relationship to the breaking point with the pair barely on speaking terms as it became apparent that one of them would be champion.

In Monaco, Hamilton had suggested Rosberg had deliberately denied him a tilt at pole position with an error that brought out warning flags, while in Belgium in August he accused the German of crashing into him on purpose.

The latter brought everything to a head, with the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda admitting he had wondered whether the partnership could work, but the icy relations have thawed again.

"It's been so intense between us all year long," said Hamilton. "There's been good moments and bad moments. "Without a doubt we've had a friendship or a relationship that we built a long, long, long time ago so that will always be there.
"He was a very, very fierce competitor this year, he did an exceptional job. He's going to be quick for a long time...it could have been either one of us today." Lauda, who beat Prost to the title by just half a point in 1984 when they were at McLaren, said the post-race handshake between Hamilton and Rosberg had made his day.

"I really got emotional when I saw on the podium that Nico went up and congratulated him," said the Austrian, himself a former triple champion. "Nico went up as a sportsman, normal and without negative emotions and congratulated him.”

Family surprise
Hamilton had assured everyone his family would not be with him in Abu Dhabi but they thought otherwise.

As the Mercedes driver took the chequered flag for the race win and his second title, father Anthony, brother Nic, step-mother Linda and girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger were there to celebrate.

The night before, Hamilton had messaged his father to say he was thinking of him.
"I went out to the beach and I was messaging with him and I said 'Guys, I would love you to be here but just know I'm here working away...I'm trying to make you proud,'" he told reporters.

The message dropped onto Anthony's mobile just as he and the rest of the family were on the runway and awaiting takeoff on an Abu Dhabi-bound plane.

"He didn't know we were coming," said Anthony. "I just figured it would be nice to be here for him, win or lose. He's going to need somebody. If you lose, he needs us. If he wins, he's still going to need us. And so we booked the plane, got on it and here we are.”

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