Nico, a devastating result for you after a season-long fight for the title. What are your emotions at this time?
I’m very disappointed to end the season with a result like that as you would expect. It was a special occasion and the hope stayed there in me right until the very end that I could do it. I still believed for a long time that I had a chance as there was always the possibility that Lewis might also have a problem which would have meant I only had to finish around fifth or sixth. Right until the last lap I kept pushing because that’s what I do – I don’t give up, I keep pushing all the way until it’s physically not possible to continue. No matter what happened I wanted to finish that race. Unfortunately for me it didn’t work out but my congratulations to Lewis. He deserves to be Champion this year.
How big an impact did your mechanical struggles in the race have?
Although it wasn’t ideal, the technical problem in the race didn’t have any impact on the outcome of the Championship. My start was not good after I got too much wheel spin and I knew it was going to be tough. Then, when I went off in the middle stint and things started to become more difficult in the car with the ERS and the brakes, it became an even bigger task. Maybe without all that I could have tried to keep the pressure on Lewis a bit more – but he won the race fair and square which meant it wouldn’t have been enough whatever I did. There’s no point focusing on the issue and I won’t be dwelling on it. All in all it’s been a great season for the team with this incredible car and I’m proud to be a part of that.
How would you sum up the battle for the 2014 World Championship?
It’s been an intense contest but a great one. We’ve been battling each other since way back when we were kids in go-karts and hopefully we’ll be pushing each other further and further for many years to come. It hasn’t always been easy but we have a good respect for each other and the basis of that respect has developed over many years. That’s what I go racing for – for battles like that – and it’s been really enjoyable for me.
What positives can you take from the season as a whole?
It’s hard to focus on them right now but I know that in time I will able to take a lot of positives from this year. I’ve been the faster driver in qualifying over both of the past two seasons which is a really good base to work from. Of course, in the races Lewis did a better job and so he deserved to win the title. He’s driven at a massively high level and I’ve had to find that level in myself to compete with him. He has been the best driver on the grid this year, so to be up against someone on such good form and come so close gives me a lot of hope for the future. If I can find that little bit extra in the races, which I know I can do, it will be an even closer battle next year so I’m already looking forward to that. I understand what I need to do and, while it won’t be an easy area to improve, I’ll be pushing hard to find it. Every year I aim to come back a better driver and a better person, so that’s absolutely the goal for next season and every one after that.
What has been the highlight of 2014 for you?
There have been so many highlights – the pole positions, the wins, leading the Championship at some points, working with this amazing team and having a car to be up at the front battling for wins with Lewis all the time… it’s been a fantastic season. Mostly, though, it’s been a really special year for me in terms of the amount of support I’ve had from all around the world – including among the British fans. There we so many of them here in Abu Dhabi and, while they were of course mostly supporting Lewis, they were so respectful in their applause for me after qualifying and throughout the weekend. I’ve never really experienced that before. It’s been really nice to see and I’m very, very grateful for it. I hope everyone has enjoyed watching this season and I thank them all again for their support.
What’s the plan for you now the season is over?
Firstly, and most importantly, I need to gather some positives in my mind to go partying tonight. I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to do that but I have a lot of friends here so it will be nice to go a bit crazy. Then it’s straight into testing on Tuesday, where I’ll be back in the car and pushing hard to learn a few things before we go into next year. I’m not sure what kind of state I’ll be in but I’ll see if I can get round the track! The preparations for 2015 begin now…