Lewis Hamilton aimed a jibe at Sebastian Vettel after the German joked his rival did not have to overtake anyone en route to winning his fourth world championship.
Hamilton, 32, arrives here in Abu Dhabi for the final round of the season hoping to see out the year in style after he beat Vettel to the title with three rounds to spare.
Hamilton and Vettel were locked in an intense battle for much of the year with the Yas Marina circuit expected to be the venue for this season’s championship decider.
But Vettel’s fight sensationally imploded during the second half of the campaign, while Hamilton roared to victory at five of the six grands prix following the summer break, to all but seal his fourth title.
Hamilton – a winner of nine races this year compared to Vettel’s five – can also boast to having passed Vettel twice this season – at May’s Spanish Grand Prix and in America last month – both of which led to the Mercedes driver winning the race. In stark contrast, Vettel has failed to make a move stick on his rival once.
Asked to recall his favourite pass of the season, Hamilton said: “I have a very bad memory, so I don’t remember much before last month’s race in Austin.”
Vettel, sitting to Hamilton’s right, interrupted. “There isn’t much to remember when you don’t have to pass that many people,” he said, implying that Hamilton’s super-quick Mercedes had helped to ease his path to championship glory.
Hamilton bit back. “I passed you a couple of times,” he replied. “They were the exciting ones. The closer races we had were the ones I enjoyed the most.”
In a playful press conference, Hamilton and Vettel also reflected on their biggest flashpoint of the season in Baku.
Vettel deliberately banged wheels with Hamilton after he wrongfully believed his rival had brake-tested him. The Ferrari driver was penalised during the race and later hauled in front of the FIA, with the governing body warning him over his future conduct.
Vettel joked: “I should get Move of the Year, Personality of the Year, and what was the last award? Fair play? OK, maybe not that one, but the first two for Baku.”
Vettel ended his four-month losing streak with victory in Brazil a fortnight ago as Hamilton recovered from last to fourth after he crashed out of qualifying.
But the Englishman, who was given a guard of honour by the throngs of Mercedes employees at the team’s Northamptonshire bases in Brackley and Brixworth earlier this week, has promised to go out with a bang in Abu Dhabi.
“We have this battle of wanting to get ahead of each other, so I am extremely driven this weekend to try and finish the season off as strongly as I have been in the second half of the year,” Hamilton added. “Sebastian won the last race and I don’t want to give him this one.
“So, I am hoping to have a good battle, and I am approaching this race and giving it everything as if I am still fighting for the championship.”