Abu Dhabi: Lewis Hamilton, always his own fiercest critic, gave himself a pat on the back on Sunday after delivering one of his most satisfying Formula One wins to his mother as a birthday present.
The Abu Dhabi victory was helped by the abrupt retirement of Red Bull`s double world champion Sebastian Vettel on the first lap but after what the McLaren driver has been through this season, it was as sweet as anything he has tasted.
"I`ve had some interesting victories, some better than others," the 2008 world champion said as mechanics in `rocket red` victory T-shirts packed up under floodlights and the parties started up on boats moored in the Yas Marina.
"When I was doing the lap on the way in (after the finish), I was thinking that this was definitely one of my best, just in terms of my own performance, not making mistakes.
"I don`t feel I`ve made a single mistake in the race and with the things that have gone on, with the pressure that I`ve been under and with the doubt that has surrounded me, I felt just massively proud to have put that kind of performance together and to have come out on top."
To add to the pleasure, Saturday was his mother Carmen`s birthday and she was present -- on a rare visit to a racetrack -- to watch him win.
Even before parking up and getting out of the car, as he talked excitedly on the team radio, the driver had dedicated his race to her.
Hamilton had not won since Germany in July and, amid controversy and repeated collisions with Ferrari`s Felipe Massa, he had fallen further and further behind team mate Jenson Button in the overall standings.
For the first time in his career, he will end this season behind a team mate -- but Sunday`s win at least equalled Button`s tally of three for the year and he could better that in the Brazil finale.
"I definitely think that this weekend I`ve been clearer in my mind and I`ve had less weighing on me, less thoughts and issues or whatever problems that I`ve got," he said.
"I was just able to drive clearly. I think my qualifying has always been generally good and my practice has always been pretty good but obviously in the last race...I was just not thinking straight and this weekend I was able to think straight.
"I don`t know if that`s because I had some great support here or what, but it`s been a positive feeling all weekend. I felt like I was on it all weekend so I just feel very fortunate to have come out and finished and had the car last and not get into any trouble."
Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso, former team mate in an unhappy season at McLaren, had paid Hamilton an unexpected compliment earlier in the week as a rare driver who could win in a car that was not the fastest.
The Spaniard was the only one to take the fight truly to Hamilton, with Button having KERS problems, and the McLaren man returned the compliment afterwards.
"Just being able to hold off one of the best drivers in the world throughout the race is something that is very, very tough to do," he said.
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh delighted in hailing a great Hamilton success.
"He controlled his pace and drove brilliantly," he told reporters. "We`ll remember it for Lewis that`s the Lewis we know and love and I think he`s really enjoyed it."
First Published: Monday, November 14, 2011, 14:22