He may have been outspoken about some of the British driver's on-track tactics this season, but Mark Webber has admitted that Lewis Hamilton produced the performance that mattered when it came to winning the world championship.
Conceding that Hamilton's perceived lack of popularity among his fellow drivers may be tinged with envy, Webber pointed out that the Briton had made the most of the chance that he had been given by the McLaren team, and managed to survive the pressure that would have been on him to deliver when the crunch came at Interlagos.
"I think it's normal that, when someone comes in and is successful pretty quickly in any sport, there can be a bit of jealousy certainly," Webber said, responding to fans' questions via his BBC
"For me, the way Lewis came through the ranks so quickly, he had a pretty smooth run. He came through the junior ranks quickly, but in the best equipment - not many drivers have that option. However, his acid test came when he was appointed driver of the McLaren team - and he delivered.
"We know Lewis is a very, very good driver and, this year, he was the best. He deserved the title, definitely. A lot of people were questioning his appointment, having not done a great deal of testing, but McLaren and Ron Dennis deserve all they get from Lewis because they took a chance on him - and, holy hell, has he delivered."
Seeing beyond the fact that McLaren produced - and continued to develop - a very good car in 2008, Webber went on to pay tribute to Hamilton's skills as a driver - and team leader.
"A lot of it is down to Lewis, no question," the Red Bull Racing driver insisted, "He's done some exceptional races this year. He has made his patch there at McLaren, showed his skills and galvanised the team around him - though it's a little unfortunate for Heikki Kovalainen, because you could have been forgiven for not knowing he was in the team this year."
Hamilton comprehensively out-performed Kovalainen in the rankings, finishing six places and 43 points ahead of the Finn - but still required a touch of good fortune to actually snatch the title back from Felipe Massa, catching and passing Timo Glock, who had gambled on keeping 'slick' tyres on his Toyota as rain returned for the final laps at Interlagos.
Having dropped to sixth - and therefore second in the standings on countback - Hamilton made up a 13-second deficit to the German on the final lap, taking fifth position at the final corner. Much has been made of the ease with which the pursuit and pass was completed, but Webber has denied that there would have been anything underhand going on - as had been suggested in some quarters.
"When you're watching on the TV, it can be hard to appreciate just how wet a track can get, and the speed differential is so extreme when you're on the wrong tyres in the wrong conditions," he explained, "I can appreciate it'd be a strange thing to witness if you didn't know what was going on but, when the tyres go wrong, it is so tough, so painfully slow.
"By comparison, it's so easy when you're on the right tyres. Timo did his best to fight for himself and his team, but Hamilton could pick him off in those circumstances so, so easily."