In Lewis Hamilton's view it was only "small percentages" that separated him and Sebastian Vettel this season and he does not envy the pressure his title rival faced while driving for Ferrari this year.
On Sunday in Mexico, Hamilton beat Vettel to this year's drivers' championship -- getting the job done with two races remaining on the calendar. The pair were closely matched midway through the year, but Hamilton accelerated ahead with six victories in seven races from the German Grand Prix onwards. During that same period, Vettel made a series of costly errors that ultimately gifted Hamilton an unassailable lead in the drivers' championship.
Hamilton said it would be unfair to compare Vettel to other drivers he has fought afainst for the title, but he did draw attention to the immense pressure the German was under while driving for a Ferrari team that has not won a drivers' title since 2007.
"If you try to do compare, then naturally that becomes headlines and it can be taken negatively," Hamilton said. "He is a deserving four-time world champion and this year, the pressure he would be under in Ferrari, who've not won a championship for many, many years... it's a lot to ride on one's shoulders.
"I think this year, even though he's had some difficult times, but he's still bounced back and that's the true showing of a champion. I've been very fortunate to race against a lot of drivers and it's all small percentages that separate us all. And that's the great thing about this sport."
Immediately after finishing second at the Mexican Grand Prix, Vettel sought out Hamilton in parc ferme to congratulate his rival. Hamilton said he appreciated the gesture and is sure the Ferrari driver will come back stronger next year.
"He came over and, the one thing he said was, 'just don't let off -- I need you fighting with me next year,' which I respect, naturally. I just said, thank you so much for being such a strong competitor this year. But it happened so fast that I don't remember everything we said, but ultimately it was a true showing of great sportsmanship and respect between us, and I think that has been there all year long.
"So, I think that's great to have in multiple world champions, two competitors who've gone head-to-head. It's been a hard year. He's fought so well this year and I know he drove fantastically well in Mexico and I know he's going to go from strength to strength so I I've got to stay on my toes and make sure I keep trying to come back stronger in the future."