JUBILANT Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton was delighted at winning the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, declaring afterwards “victory is good for the soul”.

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The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ace from Hertfordshire took the chequered flag around the Yas Marina Circuit today (Sunday) for his first F1 win since the German GP in the summer.

Starting second on the grid, 26-year-old Hamilton took the lead on the opening lap after Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel spun off the track into retirement with a rear right puncture.

The Herts-born 2008 F1 world champion controlled the race from then on, crossing the line ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

“This result is just fantastic,” said a smiling Hamilton afterwards.

“I’m usually my own biggest critic – I’m always hard on myself when I make mistakes – but I really felt like I maximised everything today.

“To be able to sustain that kind of pace, under constant pressure, and not make mistakes, is really satisfying.”

Hamilton’s McLaren colleague Jenson Button claimed the third step on the podium, but there were only ever two men in contention for race victory.

“For most of the race I was concentrating on managing the gap to Fernando [Alonso]. He’s such a strong driver,” said Hamilton.

“He’ll never give you an inch, in fact. Into the closing laps I found myself beginning to think about victory, but I didn’t want to do that really so I kept saying to myself: ‘Don’t even go there!’

“It worked: I stopped my mind from wandering and I didn’t allow myself to think about the win until I’d crossed the line.”

Hamilton was delighted McLaren had two men in the top three – just like 12 months ago.

He said: “To have Jenson on the podium alongside me was great – great for me, great for him, great for the team, and a great boost as we move towards the end of the season.

“The team has been fantastic all weekend – the strategy, the pitstops, everything – really top-class.

“The whole package came together today and I owe everyone a big thank-you.

“This is so uplifting – for the team and for me.

“To be able to walk away with a smile feels just fantastic: victory is good for the soul.”

Button praised his triumphant colleague in the McLaren garage before pulling on the team’s Rocket Red winning T-shirt.

“He did a great job today. It’s very positive to move towards the end of the season on a high, because it’s the best possible way to build for the new season,” said Button.

The 2011 seasons finishes with the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday, November 27.

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