Lewis Hamilton may have ended his troubled 2011 F1 campaign on a disappointing note after retiring from the Brazilian Grand Prix, but insisted that, after a short break, he would be ready to return and challenge for the world title in 2012.
The Briton's race ended shortly after half-distance when his McLaren's gearbox packed up, but Hamilton reported that he had been struggling with a shortage of gears for much of the race, perhaps explaining why he had found it hard to move forward from the fifth place he found himself in after the start. Despite another dice with Felipe Massa, Hamilton became the race's third retirement on lap 47, bringing the curtain down on a year marked with both success and controversy.
“At the start, I wanted to avoid any aggro, and that meant I lost a position to Fernando [Alonso]," the Briton said of his slightly lacklustre getaway, "After that, I had reasonably decent pace, and I was able to stay close to Fernando and [McLaren team-mate] Jenson [Button] until I encountered a gearbox problem.
“It occurred quite early on – I was having problems with first and second – which meant I started losing quite a lot of time and Fernando and Jenson were able to pull away from me. The problem meant I stopped being able to make good, clean gearshifts - then I lost seventh and the whole thing just let go."
The retirement was Hamilton's first mechanically-induced exit for over a year and only his third non-score of the 2011 campaign, but left him fifth overall, and almost 150 points shy of world champion Sebastian Vettel's title-winning points total. Having already admitted that he would reflect on a 'learning' year, the Briton vowed to return stronger and more focused when the 2012 campaign kicked off.
“Of course, it's not the way I'd like to have ended the season, but it wasn't so bad," he acknowledged, "I enjoyed my race while it lasted - I was challenging Felipe and I was hoping I'd get him, but then the gearbox failure stopped me.
“It's been a long year, and I want to say a huge thank-you to the team. They've never given up, and they've worked incredibly hard all season. We didn't get the ultimate result we wanted, but we had some great times along the way.
“I'll be attacking next season - 2012 will be my year.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh apologised for the failure that eventually sidelined his driver, and echoed Hamilton's belief that he will be a factor again next year.
“Lewis drove extremely well today too, but unfortunately he was let down by his gearbox," Whitmarsh conceded, "Quite early on, we noticed a loss of oil pressure, then he lost seventh gear, and then he lost all drive and was forced to call it a day. But, prior to that, he was improvising intelligently and never gave up. Moreover, his typically combative approach played a significant part in the afternoon's entertainment, and surely thrilled TV viewers worldwide.
“Lewis has had a challenging year – but his gutsy performances here and, in particular, in Abu Dhabi, where he took his third win of the season, represent an eloquent testimony to an emphatic return to form on his part. He's already focusing on 2012, and I'm sure he'll prepare for the new season with his customary determination and will to win.
“All things considered, 2011 was a pretty decent year for us, but we aim to win outright. Next season we intend to do just that.”