Lewis Hamilton column: Nascar, overtaking and winter plans

Lewis Hamilton Column
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Venue: Yas Marina Circuit Dates: 27-29 November
Coverage: Live TV, radio and text coverage of the race. Full details here.

It's the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi this weekend and, even after 18 races at the end of a long season, I feel fresh and excited about a special few days.

My target is to win here, as it is at every race, and that's all I'm thinking about as the weekend starts.

I look back at this year and I've won 10 races, got 11 pole positions. I won the championship - and that makes it a perfect year as far as I'm concerned.

Not only that, but this has been without any doubt the best year of my career in terms of my driving and overall performance.

People have been asking whether I have subconsciously backed off a little because the championship has been won. Of course you will never know whether that's the case, but it has certainly not been my intention.

Went HAM on these DUNES!!! So much fun!
"Went HAM on these DUNES!!! So much fun!"

If I'd won every single race and got pole everywhere, that would just be boring. It would suck. Where's the fun in that?

There have been some ups and downs. I've not always had it my own way. That's the way racing is supposed to be.

Even though Nico has been on pole for the last five grands prix, I've won three of them. That says a lot in itself.

And in the two I haven't won, I have been right with him all the way, I've just not been able to get past.

Nico Rosberg
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg has now had five pole positions in a row

Strategy

That difficulty in being able to overtake is one of the aspects of Formula 1 that can be frustrating.

Nico and I are allowed to race but unfortunately with the way the sport's rules are, we have to use strategy to affect the races.

Ideally, we shouldn't have to rely on strategy so much; it should be more about race-craft out on track.

The problem is that the tyres drop off, and you can't get close to another car because the aerodynamics of your car are disrupted.

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Rosberg leads home Mercedes one two

It has been the same for years and I don't know why more changes haven't been made to improve that situation.

That puts pressure and stress on the pit-stop strategy, so that has become a focus in the battle between Nico and me. Even though the team's approach has worked perfectly for two years now.

As far as that goes, the team doesn't care what kind of race we have, as long as we finish one-two. It's a good philosophy to have in many respects but maybe for the fans it's not the best.

But that is not the core of the problem. It's actually the regulations. I hope that with the big changes to the cars coming for 2017 something can be done about that.

A little less comfortable

In terms of my overall performance in the last few races, what I can definitely say is there has been a change in the car.

Lewis Hamilton in Mercedes
Hamilton suffered a loss of power at the Singapore GP before being told to retire.

We had a difficult weekend in Singapore, when we were off the pace and did not know why. And we are still trying to get to the bottom of that as a team.

No-one knew what on earth had happened. The engineers looked into it and came up with lots of different explanations and we grabbed at one and changed a few things.

But the car had been fantastic all year, so that doesn't really completely make sense to me. And the car balance has not felt the same since.

It has gone from being underneath me - as racing drivers describe it when they feel confident in what the car will do - to not underneath me.

The car balance has changed and it has not been as comfortable, while Nico seems to be more comfortable with it.

Building in Dubai
"Look out for something special in Abu Dhabi this weekend... I'll give you a clue, it has to do with my racing number..."

I've still got the pace in the race, but it has definitely taken some of my advantage away overall, so now I have to push to try to get the car back to where it was for me.

I looked into it over the gap between Brazil and here and we'll do some more work on it as the weekend goes on and see where we are.

Beyond that, it's a special weekend. The number 44 - my car number - is everywhere here. The United Arab Emirates is celebrating its 44th National Day - I'm really proud to be celebrating that with them. And I am still going for my 44th career win.

Something completely different

I spent some time at the Nascar season finale last weekend before coming here to Abu Dhabi.

I went there because I wanted to be with Jeff Gordon, a four-time Nascar champion, at his last race.

Came all the way to Miami just to see my friend @jeffgordonweb's final #NASCAR race. An amazing experience to say the least. Congratulations to you, Jeff, on an amazing career. May the future bring you even more success, and happiness. God bless.
"Congratulations to you, Jeff, on an amazing career. May the future bring you even more success, and happiness. God bless."

Jeff and I met in Nashville a couple of years ago. I was there working with a music producer and he took me to a bar where the Nascar people were. I bumped into Jeff and we stayed in touch from there.

I'm a big fan of his. He's a legendary dude and a really nice guy. We have always been very supportive of each other, messaging each other after our races and so on.

He told me that this was his last year and I thought: "I've got to make it to a race, because I've never been to a Nascar race before."

So I dropped everything I had and flew out to Florida just for that day and had an amazing time.

Nascar is absolutely huge in the States. It gets massive audiences and I actually found it way more appealing in real life than it may appear on television.

Kevin Harvick leads a pack during the Nascar Sprint Cup Series at Miami Speedway
Kevin Harvick leads a pack during the Nascar Sprint Cup Series at Miami Speedway

It's a very different world from F1 - the teams are much smaller, to the extent that it almost reminded me of my Formula Three days.

It's not plush. The fans can get really close in the paddock and even be right next to the pit stops. And, in terms of the technology the teams have, it is kept much simpler compared to F1.

The atmosphere at the track is fantastic. There was one long grandstand that was absolutely packed with fans. The lap is only 30 seconds long, so you see the cars constantly. The cars sound amazing and they are freakin' rapid.

The race was 267 laps - really long - but I thoroughly enjoyed it, trying to understand the strategy and the differences between the cars. It was neat.

It made me want to drive one - I really fancy a race in a Nascar one day. I'm not sure I'd do an oval, but possibly a road circuit course.

A break from Formula 1 - but not just yet

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton and friends pose on the wing of his personalised private jet

I have no big plans for the winter yet. I am working until a little bit later this year but normally by now I would know what I am doing. I have not booked anything yet.

My best friend called me on Wednesday because we are meant to be spending New Year together but I haven't figured out where we're going to go yet.

What I do know is that I will go to my house in Colorado at some stage and spend some time chilling out. That's where I always go to relax, train, recharge my batteries and get set to go again next year.

You can follow Hamilton on Twitter,Facebook and you can see exclusive content on his website.

Lewis Hamilton was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson.

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