LEWIS HAMILTON ended his rollercoaster season in an emotional hug with his bitterest rival.
Despite another day of misery on the track in Brazil as he chalked up his first retirement of the season, he sought out Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and wrapped him in a giant embrace.
The duo had clashed six times this season and the Brazilian helped dispatch him into retirement yesterday by forcing his ailing McLaren to battle even harder for fifth place.
Mark Webber finally broke his victory drought, Sebastian Vettel was second and Jenson Button (right) charged to third to tie up runners-up spot in the drivers’ championship.
A McLaren source said: “It was spontaneous. When Lewis saw Felipe he said ‘I’m going to make it up with him’ and he walked over.”
It was a touching finale to the year for two men immersed in a feud that tainted what was arguably the worst season of their lives. Hamilton may not have become champion but he certainly behaved like one here. “It was good to have a nice chat with Felipe after the race. I have great respect for him and I’m already looking forward to racing him again next year,” said Hamilton.
“It’s been a long hard year for all the drivers.”
Minutes earlier Hamilton issued a blanket apology to his own team.
Given the way his season has gone, with clashes and rows, it was almost inevitable it would end this way. His gearbox broke on lap 40 while he was sixth. It could hardly be described as a sorry year for Hamilton because he has won three times but it is certainly the season he’s said sorry the most.
“Apologies to the team for any mishaps that have occurred and know that I will be strong next year,” said Hamilton.
“It’s not that it’s a relief the season is over, it’s been a long, long year and I’m looking forward to a little bit of downtime with family and friends.
“There is a lot to improve on but I feel it’s all positive even though we didn’t have a great result today. The team apologised to me for letting me down today but I don’t feel they let me down. It’s motorsport. I have always said we will win and lose together.
“There have been times this season when I have not performed as well as I could.”
Button was Britain’s hero of the day as he took third place for his eighth podium in nine races with a storming drive that almost took him past ailing Vettel as well.
Dark speculation that this was a manipulated finish by Red Bull to reward Webber for a season of loyalty only served to tarnish what has been a remarkable year of domination for the world champions.