Lewis Hamilton was relieved to see the back of his Mercedes on Sunday after suffering through the first season of his record-breaking Formula One career without a win or pole position.
The seven-time world champion, who made a sensational F1 debut with McLaren in 2007, retired three laps from the end of the final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix due to a loss of hydraulic pressure.
“Ultimately I think we started (the season) with a car that we didn’t want and we finished with a car that we didn’t want,” the Briton, winner of a record 103 races, told Sky Sports television.
“We were basically stuck with it and we just kept trundling away, kept working away at improving it but I think the fundamentals have still been there all the way to the end,” added the 37-year-old.
“It’s been more of a team building exercise this year.”
Hamilton ended the season sixth overall, with team mate George Russell fourth in the standings.
It was the third time in 16 seasons that Hamilton had been beaten over the course of a championship by a team mate after Jenson Button did so in 2011 at McLaren and Nico Rosberg in 2016 at Mercedes.
Team boss Toto Wolff said Hamilton’s failure to finish summed up a season marked by the car suffering from ‘porpoising’, or bouncing, on the straights.
“A car that was not at the pace it should have been, third quickest today (after Red Bull and Ferrari) and one breaking down and the other running out of tyres,” said the Austrian of the evening’s result.
Russell, winner in Brazil a week earlier in a Mercedes one-two, finished fifth on Sunday. The team ended up third overall in a constructors’ championship they had dominated for the previous eight years.
“We are going to put these cars in reception in Brackley and Brixworth to remind us every single day how difficult it can be,” said Wolff.
“This is a character-building season, not a blip for a race but a full season … now we are just pushing forward for next year. It’s raw, it’s bad and it’s OK to feel like this but next year we are back.”