ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton ended the Formula One season on the podium on Sunday but recognised that winning his fourth world championship with two races to spare had affected his performances.
As in 2015, when he secured the title in Texas and then-team mate Nico Rosberg claimed the final three races of the season, Hamilton has not won since the U.S. Grand Prix.
He was ninth in Mexico, where he clinched the title, then fourth in Brazil two weeks ago and second in Abu Dhabi on Sunday behind Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
Last year, with the battle going down to the wire, he won the last four races but still lost out to Rosberg -- who retired soon after.
“I still drove relatively well but, yeah, I wouldn’t say it was 100 percent like it was whilst in the season,” the Briton told reporters after ending the campaign with nine wins from 20 races.
”All I can say is that in the week after I won the championship I partied a lot. That’s what you do. I didn’t do that before the other races.
“The energy has not been the same, even if I have approached the races the same. But I‘m not worried about that. Next year it will go back to what it was in the second half of the season,” he added.
Hamilton won two of his titles -- in 2008 and 2014 -- in the final race of the season.
Leaving them aside, he has yet to win a race (in the same season) after winning the championship -- a problem that did not affect to the same extent other multiple champions such as Michael Schumacher.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was not at all concerned.
“These guys are pushing the cars to the limit. He didn’t put a foot wrong all season. I’d rather it happened after the championship than before,” said the Austrian.
Wolff said both Mercedes drivers had raced for the win on Sunday, rejecting scepticism about whether the pair were truly fighting for position once Bottas led away from pole position.
”They were almost full blast,“ he said. ”We gave them the power in order to fight it out on track.
“It’s very difficult with these cars to overtake in Abu Dhabi.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris