Hamilton sealed his second F1 title in style on Sunday, winning the 11th race of his campaign at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to finally get the better of rival and teammate Nico Rosberg as Mercedes finished 1-2 in the drivers’ championship.
Rosberg threatened to upstage Hamilton with double points on offer in the final race, but went out with a whimper as he crossed the line in 14th place—despite starting from pole position for the 11th time this season.
With such a dominant car, Mercedes will be hard to catch next season and—judging by his phenomenal acceleration at the start of Sunday’s race—so will Hamilton.
“It is going to be a dream to be able to go into next season and go in even stronger. That will be the goal,” Hamilton said on Monday. “I have absolute faith in the team that we will come in very, very strong next year.”
That sounds ominous considering how Mercedes pulverized the competition this season: winning 16 of 19 races, taking 18 poles, and finishing 296 points ahead of Red Bull, which had won the drivers’ and constructors’ victors over the four previous years.
“I think it’s really important to continue improving, and I 100 percent believe the team will do that,” Hamilton said. “I’m looking forward to battling with people.”
There is little to suggest that these battles will be anything but one-sided. Worrying for Red Bull and Ferrari—which failed to win a race for the first time since 1993 and finished down in fourth spot in the constructors’ standings — there may still be more to come from Mercedes.
“I do believe that we can improve the engine and car. I know we are making positive steps in that way,” the 29-year-old Hamilton said “I am looking forward to going into the factory, downloading every bit of input I can, and working on the areas I can improve.”
It will be hard to improve on Sunday’s performance, however.
Hamilton’s start will go down in F1 legend. He screeched past Rosberg with a phenomenal burst of acceleration to effectively end the race after a few seconds.
With 33 career wins, Hamilton has little to prove. Yet he feels he did silence some doubters this year.
“There was all that talk that ‘Lewis cannot make his tires last because of his aggressive driving style,'” Hamilton said. “But through the races this year I think I have proved time and again that I use less fuel, (that) I am able to utilize my tires as good as anyone.”
Hamilton, however, does need to do better in qualifying, especially if Rosberg improves his race-day performance having yet to win back-to-back races in his career.
“Nico did a great job, especially with his qualifying laps,” Hamilton said. “But I will look into the detail to see how I can improve next year.”
Rosberg, meanwhile, will be back testing in the car on Tuesday.
“I am not really in the mood for it,” the 29-year-old German driver said. “But as it is optional, maybe that is a sign that I’m already motivated again.”
Rosberg says it was “a bit hard to watch” Hamilton’s title celebrations after coming so close—with Hamilton only 17 points ahead before the final race.
The deciding race settled a stressful campaign that severely tested the friendship of the teenage go-karting rivals.
Having provoked Hamilton by predicting he would crack under pressure, Rosberg proved to be a gracious loser.
“I said “You deserved it.’ It was a hearty situation. He did a little bit a better than me in the races, tiny bits that I need to find,” Rosberg said. “He was the best driver on the grid this year.”
Hamilton was eager to play down the rift, which led to heated rows at the Monaco GP in May and the Belgian GP in August.
“There have been good moments and bad moments but we’ve worked together all year long to push this team,” Hamilton said. “So the team has no problems.”
The other teams do, however.