Despite winning for a fourth- consecutive race, Hamilton ended his title defence five points short of Nico Rosberg who emulated his father Keke, the 1982 champion, by securing his maiden world crown.
Hamilton, 31, arrived here knowing that another victory may not be enough for him to become the first British driver to win four titles, and so it proved as Rosberg crossed the line in second place. He needed only to finish in the top three.
But the title battle hung in the balance until the very closing stages of the race as Hamilton desperately attempted to back his Mercedes team-mate into the clutches of the chasing pack.
A number of demands from the Mercedes pit wall for Hamilton to improve his pace, so that Rosberg would not be vulnerable to both Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel, fell on deaf ears. A special req-uest from Paddy Lowe, the team’s technical boss, was also rebuffed.
“Let us race,” Hamilton said over the team radio, before adding: “I am losing the world championship so right now I don’t really care whet-her I win or lose this race.”
Sebastian Vettel, who nearly passed Rosberg on the final lap, added fuel to the fire after he accused Hamilton of “playing dirty tricks”.
“Undermining a structure in public means you are putting yourself before the team,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said last night. “It is very simple. Anarchy does not work in any team, and in any company.
“It is about finding a solution as to how to solve this in the future because a precedent has been set. Let me sleep overnight and come up with a solution.”
Mercedes strengthened their so-called ‘Rules of Engagement’ earlier this season after Hamilton and Rosberg collided in Spain and then Austria. The pair were subsequently warned that they could be fined or even suspended if they broke the rules which had been laid down by the team.
“We need to look at the overall situation and say ‘what does it mean?’. Everything is possible,” Wolff said when asked if disciplinary action would be examined.
“Maybe we want to give them more freedom next year, or go with the harsher side where we feel the values were not respected.
“I am not sure yet where my finger is going to point or the needle is going to go.”
The top four drivers were covered by just 1.6 seconds as they took the chequered flag.
“I did nothing dangerous so I don’t feel I did anything unfair,” a defiant Hamilton said. “We were fighting for the world championship. I was leading. I control the pace. That’s the rules.”
Hamilton’s controversial decision to bunch the pack up provided a nail-biting finale as the sport’s longest season reached its dramatic conclusion.
Rosberg’s wife Vivian watched on with crossed fingers and fear etched over her face. Rosberg’s father Keke viewed from afar, but was due to arrive in Abu Dhabi Sunday night to join in the celebrations.