Lewis Hamilton admitted it was an emotional moment when his McLaren career came to a premature conclusion in the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Hamilton was battling Nico Hulkenberg for the lead of the race when the pair collided heading into turn one, with the damage sustained putting the Briton into retirement on his final appearance for the team prior to moving to Mercedes.
The retirement also meant McLaren were unable to beat Ferrari to second in the constructors' championship and Hamilton admitted that it hadn't been the way he had wanted his time with the team to come to an end.
“It's a shame we weren't able to seal second position in the constuctors' world championship together, but we did our best,” he said. “Congratulations to Sebastian, too – his team kept it together and, under a lot of pressure, they pulled through today.
“Now that the 2012 season is done and dusted, I feel a bit numb. It's been a day of mixed emotions. I'm sad that I didn't finish the race, but I'm excited about the future. I'll miss my friends and Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, but I'm optimistic about what lies ahead for me. I feel comfortable going into this winter because I feel I did a good job this year. I gave 2012 everything I had. I couldn't have done anything more.
“It's been a brilliant experience to be a part of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team over the past six years. I want to thank everyone and sincerely wish everyone the very best for the future. They've been fantastic, so supportive, and they continue to do an amazing job.”
In the immediate aftermath of the race, Hamilton had said he was disappointed not to have had an apology from Hulkenberg for the incident [See separate story HERE
], although the German did later speak to the Briton to clear the air over what had happened.
“I don't remember too much about the accident with Nico,” Hamilton insisted, “but he came to see me after the race, which was nice.”
Hamilton's retirement also prevented McLaren from possibly earning its first 1-2 finish since Canada 2010 but team boss Martin Whitmarsh said the 2008 title winner could leave with his head held high given his record since joining the grid in 2007.
“Lewis was driving well when a coming-together with Nico cruelly ended his race,” he said. “The points we thereby lost were what prevented us from overhauling Ferrari's constructors' world championship points total today.
“It would have been fantastic if we could have scored the one-two finish that was clearly within our reach but for that collision, not least for Lewis, whose superb record for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes warrants setting out here: 110 grands prix, 21 wins, 49 podium places, 26 pole positions, 12 fastest laps and 913 world championship points. On behalf of everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, we wish him well.”