Lewis Hamilton is crowned world champion for the second time in his career.
The 23rd November 2014 will be remembered forever by Lewis Hamilton as the day he won his second Formula One world championship. After a season-long struggle between Hamilton and his Mercedes team, Hamilton finally prevailed at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. He became Britain’s first double world champion since Jackie Stewart won for Tyrrell in 1971. He also ended Sebastian Vettel’s four year dominance of Formula One and gave Mercedes their first drivers title since 1955 and their first constructors title ever (the constructors championship wasn’t introduced into Formula One until 1958).
The season began in Melbourne, Australia. Pre-season testing had gone well for Mercedes and Hamilton, the Mercedes car looked fast and the engine was powerful and reliable. Meanwhile, 2013 champions Red Bull were struggling with an unreliable Renault engine, with the rest of the field very close to each other – Mercedes only marginally ahead and starting as favourites. This was justified as Mercedes took a 1-2 in qualifying, with Hamilton ahead of Rosberg. Come race day, however, luck was with Rosberg. Hamilton suffered mechanical issues which forced him to retire, leaving Rosberg out in front to take an easy win, more than 20 seconds ahead of a rejuvenated Red Bull, driven by Australian hot shot Daniel Ricciardo. Ricciardo was disqualified after the race due to an illegal part on the fuel system of his Red Bull. Mercedes had shown how fast they were in Australia and they would become the team to beat over the season. In the drivers championship, Rosberg had a 25 point lead over Hamilton as McLaren took a surprise lead in the constructors championship, achieving second and third in Australia after Ricciardo had been disqualified.
Hamilton had to fight back against Rosberg, they both knew the championship would be close come the end of the season. Rosberg already had a 25 point lead, so Hamilton had to start winning races or at least, beating Rosberg. Fight back he did, and Hamilton won the next four races, in Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Spain. Bahrain also saw the first time the two Mercedes had gone head to head on track, fighting for the win. Hamilton took it and they both referred back to their karting days where they had fought for wins just like in Bahrain. Hamilton took the championship lead at the next race in Spain, taking a 3 point lead over Rosberg. He now had to fight back against Hamilton, with Mercedes looking a near certainty for the constructors championship, now over 100 points clear of Red Bull.
The jewel in Formula One’s crown was next: Monaco, a special race on the F1 calendar and one that marked the first signs of tension in the Mercedes team. Rosberg was fastest after the first laps of the final part of qualifying. Rosberg was ahead of Hamilton on track and on his final run, he out-braked himself and went into a small escape road off-track. The marshals had to put yellow flags out, which forced all the cars behind to slow down, spoiling their laps. One of these cars was Hamilton, meaning Rosberg automatically took pole position. Conspiracy soon arose, several people claimed Rosberg had done it on purpose. Rosberg won the race – overtaking is extremely difficult around the streets of Monaco. The incident in qualifying caused Hamilton to say that he and Rosberg “are no longer friends”, he had lost his championship lead thanks to Rosberg’s win. Rosberg maintained he didn’t go off on purpose but the incident continued to be a major talking point throughout the season.
At the Canadian Grand Prix, Mercedes suffered the same reliability issue on both cars. Rosberg was able to drive around the problem, while Hamilton was forced to retire. Rosberg couldn’t win, however, and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took his maiden win. The championship battle had swung back toward Rosberg. Rosberg won again in Austria but luck would come Hamilton’s way, Rosberg would be the one to retire at the next race at Silverstone. Hamilton took an emotional win in front of his home crowd, he had reduced Rosberg’s lead to four points after it had been 29 points coming into the weekend. However, Rosberg would strike back in Germany at his home race. Hamilton had to retire from qualifying in the second session after a car fire forced him to start from 16th on the grid. Rosberg won the race, Hamilton climbed impressively back to third.
However, controversy returned to Mercedes in Hungary and Belgium. In Hungary, Hamilton refused to let Rosberg past him, when Rosberg was on faster tyres and would have benefited from overtaking. Hamilton eventually beat Rosberg, but changeable conditions allowed Red Bull and Ricciardo to beat Mercedes and win the race. Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari also beat both Mercedes’, Hamilton could only manage third, Rosberg was fourth. Belgium marked the lowest point in Mercedes’ season, Hamilton and Rosberg collided when Rosberg tried to pass Hamilton early in the race. The collision broke a part of Rosberg’s front wing and gave Hamilton a puncture. Rosberg managed to finish 2nd, and Ricciardo took advantage of Mercedes’ misfortunes again to win. Hamilton retired with car damage, meaning Rosberg took a 29 point championship. After the race Hamilton claimed Rosberg said he was trying to prove a point by trying to pass Hamilton, which angered Mercedes management, Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda were both angry with Rosberg post-race.
The next few races belonged to Hamilton, he won all five races: in Italy, Singapore, Japan, Russia and the USA. His victory in Japan however was overshadowed by a crash involving Marussia driver Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman went off the track in the wet conditions and hit a service vehicle, which was recovering Adrian Sutil’s Sauber. He remains in a critical condition in a French hospital. Mercedes secured their first ever constructors title at the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, although it had been a near certainty that they would win it since the early part of the season, it was a relief for the whole team and allowed Hamilton and Rosberg to forget the drivers title and congratulate their team on a dominant season, with easily best car on the grid.
Despite five wins on the trot for Hamilton, Rosberg had been incredibly consistent throughout the year, after the US Grand Prix he had a 24 point lead which was reduced to 17 when Hamilton won in Brazil. The stage was set for the finale in Abu Dhabi. Controversially, double points were on offer here, Bernie Eccelstone intending to keep the championship alive for longer. Hamilton could be world champion. He was second on the grid, behind Rosberg but made a better start and lead into turn one, he never looked back. Although Rosberg was still there in second, Hamilton knew he was champion if he finished either first or second. Hamilton’s task was made that much easier when Rosberg struggled with gearbox issues and dropped out of the points, guaranteeing Hamilton his second world championship. Hamilton won the race, claiming his 11th win of the season and his second world championship. Rosberg showed a sporting touch, congratulating Hamilton on his world championship, a gesture appreciated by Hamilton. The pair had been fighting all year, the fight had become a war at certain points but Hamilton prevailed to become the 2014 Formula One world champion.
Image: Lewis Hamilton, SPOTY 2014 Winner © BBC