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Sebastian Vettel says his sole aim was victory in Abu Dhabi regardless of the F1 world title permutations and feels Lewis Hamilton's backing up of Nico Rosberg in the closing laps denied him the chance to pass.
With Hamilton needing to win in Abu Dhabi and see Rosberg finish off the podium, the British driver tried to slow the pace at the front to bring the Red Bull and Ferrari cars into contention, despite repeated calls from his Mercedes team radio to speed up for fear of losing the race.
Vettel, who was charging on fresher super-softs at the end of the race having passed both Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and both Red Bulls, closed up to Rosberg's gearbox six laps from the finish but couldn't find a way past before the chequered flag which saw his fellow countryman crowned F1 world champion.
Asked about his impact on the F1 world title battle, Vettel says his goal was the win in Abu Dhabi but felt he couldn't get past Rosberg with the Mercedes driver gaining DRS from Hamilton on the home straight as well as following in the turbulent air behind both drivers.
“I was following two cars, the tyres start to go too hot so I was struggling with my fronts so it was difficult to stay close but I did what I could,” Vettel said. “Lewis was probably a bit too close and maybe I could have had them. Nico defended well, turn 11 was the spot where maybe I could have had a chance but that way it wasn't possible.
“When I got behind Nico I was faster but also due to the fact Lewis was slowing down. I tried everything but they were very, very quick down the straight and Nico had DRS so it was difficult.
“On the second straight it was the spot I was having a look but Nico defended well and closed the inside so I couldn't really go anywhere. I couldn't try anything really stupid because Lewis was just ahead so if I really dived around the inside or outside I could have hit him.”
Vettel paid tribute to Rosberg's maiden F1 world title feat, calling him 'a deserved champion' over the 21-round campaign and played down Hamilton's quip that he was helped to the crown by the Brit's reliability woes.
“You don't win the championship by luck so I think Nico won the championship today and he is a deserved champion,” he said. “You collect a lot of points throughout the season and there are fortunate and unfortunate situations with your car and other situations in the past.
“That is the way it goes, sometimes you have better seasons sometimes worse and today is Nico's day. It is a sign of respect and greatness to give him that and we owe it to him as he is a deserved champion.”
Even if Vettel had pushed Rosberg into third the Mercedes driver would have still be crowned 2016 F1 world champion as a podium finish was enough to seal the title.
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