Lewis Hamilton says it was a “privilege” and an “honour” going head-to-head with Sebastian Vettel for the 2018 Formula 1 world championship.

Hamilton claimed his 11th win of the season by fending off Vettel in the Abu Dhabi finale, having already beaten the Ferrari driver to his fifth drivers’ world title with two races to spare in Mexico.

The Briton ended the year 88 points clear of Vettel, who came under fire for a number of key errors throughout the season, most notably crashing out of the lead of the German Grand Prix in July, which Hamilton went on to win from 14th on the grid.

Driver Ratings - Abu Dhabi GP

Hamilton once again moved to defend his chief title rival, who he praised for “always racing his heart out”.

“It’s been a real honour and a privilege racing against Sebastian,” Hamilton said.

“I’ve known him since Formula 3 days and he’s always been an honest, hard-working racing driver and he has always raced his heart out.

“He did a fantastic job this whole season. There’s so much pressure on us all, so don’t ever look at our shortcomings as anything less than us giving our best and Sebastian did.

“I know next year he’s going to come back strong, so I’ve got to make sure I come back with him, but I’m really grateful for the time.”

Vettel said it was a shame he had not raced wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton more often during the season.

“He’s the champion and he deserves to be the champion,” Vettel added. “It’s been a tough year. I tried everything until the last lap and I really enjoyed it.

“Catching a little bit, a little bit, but I think he controlled the pace at the front. I would have liked it to be a little more wheel-to-wheel but yeah, a long year, a lot of races.

“Congrats, and as he said I will try, we will try, I think our whole team will try to come back stronger to make sure we give him a harder run into next year.”

The pair swapped F1 helmets to show their mutual respect for each other following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.