Lewis Hamilton said he was "very proud of everybody" in the Mercedes team despite a season to forget for the seven-time Formula One world champion.
Hamilton endured a tough campaign in 2022, finishing without any pole positions or wins for the first time in his career and placing sixth in the F1 drivers' standings, 35 points behind fourth-placed teammate George Russell.
His DNF at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday perhaps summed up his year as Hamilton retired with three laps remaining with a suspected hydraulic issue. He was running fourth before he was forced into the pit lane.
“Ultimately, I think we started with a car that we didn’t want and we finished with a car that we didn’t want but we were basically stuck with it," Hamilton, 37, said. "We kept trundling way, kept working away at improving it, but I think the fundamentals have still been there until the end, as you saw this weekend.
“It’s been more of a team building exercise this year and I’m very, very proud of everybody. Whilst we’re not celebrating a world championship, we’ll be celebrating them still for their hard work and efforts.
“I hope that the struggles this year really provide us with the tools and the strength to fight for many more championships moving forward.”
There was plenty of reason for optimism from the Mercedes garage ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following a fine showing in Brazil, where Russell stormed to his maiden F1 victory and Hamilton claimed second.
However, they were once again outclassed by Red Bull and Ferrari, with Russell taking fifth almost 36 seconds behind race winner and world champion Max Verstappen.
Asked for his thoughts on the first winless season of his career, Hamilton said: "I always believed right to the last race that there was potentially a chance, I think it's important to hold on to hope.
"I gave it everything and the last race was almost like the whole season, sums up the whole year and I'm glad it's done.
"It would have been nice to have a win. One win is not really enough. I feel like this year when we got our first fifth it felt like a win; first fourth, it felt like a win; first podium, it felt like a win. The seconds really felt like we'd achieved something, so I just hold on to those."
Hamilton said he will now take the off-season as a chance to rest and recharge.
“I think right now I’m not looking forward to another year or anything like that, I’m looking forward to putting now my energy into my family, and to just getting back and seeing the family," he said. "I haven’t seen them for a while – and yeah, just relaxing, being healthy, staying positive."