Lewis Hamilton admitted that he was happy to take victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with or without world champion Sebastian Vettel in opposition, after the German's retirement handed him the advantage on lap one.

Vettel had pipped weekend pacesetter Hamilton to pole position on Saturday afternoon, but the McLaren driver remained confident that he could challenge for the win and become only the second driver, other than the German, to stand on the top step. He was presented with the ideal opportunity, however, when Vettel suffered a freak deflation of his right rear tyre, with the resulting spin not only handing Hamilton the lead, but also damaging the Red Bull's suspension and preventing him from returning to the battle.

Although Fernando Alonso remained a threat in second place, Hamilton was able to control the race from the front, bringing a first victory since July's German Grand Prix and returning the smile to his face after a period of personal turmoil.

"I don't know really, I will tell you when it happens," he replied when asked if it would have felt better to have beaten Vettel on the road, "I think we were clearly very quick and it would have been very close. Sebastian got a great start - again - and was off. He got quite a good exit from turn one, so he had a pretty good gap already. [But] every now and then, we need a bit of bad luck to notice the good times, I guess, and I don't remember the last time he had a bit of bad luck."

Asked what he could see of Vettel's exit, Hamilton admitted that he had been focused on avoiding the spinning Red Bull than evaluating why it was rotating in the first place.

"I didn't know which way it was going to go, so I was just trying to avoid that," he said, "I saw immediately that something had happened to his tyre, and that's why he was going sideways. I was just making sure that I didn't collect him as he [could] potentially [come] across the track.

"I could see he went through turn two and it looked like his rear tyre failed for whatever reason. He wasn't on the kerb as far as I could see. I only saw it happen after the kerb, so after the apex, but I just saw that his tyre was deflated and the right rear was squashed up on the inside of the floor, so I assumed it was just a tyre failure.

"After that, I just saw that I had two very quick drivers behind me and I was just trying to keep the gap. It didn't really enter my mind at all throughout the race."

Although there was a lack of wheel-to-wheel action at the front of the field, Hamilton suggested that the race had been one of his best, as he kept Alonso - with whom he has found a new level of mutual respect - at arm's length throughout the entire 55 laps.

"I definitely think it was one of my best races," he agreed, "I said that just being able to hold off one of the best drivers in the world throughout the race is something that is very, very tough to do. Just looking after the tyres, just managing the gap. Obviously, the team did a fantastic job in the pit-stops, but I'm ecstatic. I'm really very happy to be back up here. This is great. I can get on my flight tonight and smile.

"I think it's very rare for us, and for me, to get the opportunity to be able to maintain a gap, to be able to control the race, but today I had the pace, I was able to put in the laps when Fernando went quicker and, whenever he closed the gap, was able to keep it the same or pull out a little bit more. There was a point - I can't remember which stint it was - but he was closing the gap. It seemed like he would start a bit slower than me in a stint and then get faster towards the end, so his tyres would last longer but nonetheless, I'm very happy with how it went.

"I've had some interesting victories, some better than others, but when I was doing the lap on the way in, I was thinking that this was definitely one of my best, just in terms of my own performance, not making mistakes. I don't feel I've made a single mistake in the race and, with the things that have gone, with the pressure that I've been under, and with the doubt that has surrounded me, I felt just massively proud to have put that kind of performance together and to have come out on top."

Naturally, a lot of attention focused on whether the win was enough to lift the dark mood that has enveloped Hamilton for the past few months, and the Briton insisted that, while it would take a little time to emerge from the funk caused by turmoil in his private life, it was a start,

"It is early days yet, but this is definitely the start of something, hopefully, very good," he conceded, "We've got another great race ahead of us in Brazil and I have just got to put my focus on that and try to keep the momentum, but you know how it goes. Anything can happen. I have just got to keep my mind on the game.

"I definitely think that, this weekend, I've been clearer in my mind and have had less weighing on me - less thoughts and issues or whatever problems that I've got. I was just able to drive clearly. I think my qualifying has always been generally good and my practice has always been pretty good but, obviously, in the last race, I had that [practice] mistake which was...

"I was just not thinking straight and, this weekend, I was able to think straight. I don't know if that's because I had some great support here or what, but it's been a positive feeling all weekend. I felt like I was on it all weekend, so I just feel very fortunate to have come out and finish, have the car last and not get into any trouble."