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.