Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has defended Lewis Hamilton's worst season in Formula One saying it is "irrelevant" that team-mate George Russell beat him.
Hamilton’s turbulent campaign ended in retirement with a mechanical failure in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The 37-year-old also lost his unique record of winning in every season of his career, with Russell recording Mercedes’ sole victory this year, at the penultimate round in Brazil.
Hamilton also slipped to sixth in the overall standings – his poorest finish in 16 seasons – and scored 35 fewer points than his less-established team-mate Russell, who ended the year in fourth.
But Wolff said: "That is irrelevant. They were not racing for a world championship.
"They haven’t raced for victories apart from Brazil. I don’t think for any of the team it matters whether they finish second, third, fourth or fifth."
Hamilton will take part in a tyre test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday before his under-performing Mercedes machine is consigned to history.
Following his DNF at the Yas Marina Circuit, Hamilton admitted he was pleased this season was "over and done with".
But Wolff believes Hamilton’s contentious championship defeat to Max Verstappen last year ranked as a tougher season for his star driver.
"Last year was much worse," added Wolff. "Last year it was taken away from us. This year we lost it on merit. We just weren’t good enough.
"Lewis has been really, really good because you expect a world champion, who has had the title taken away from him, to just come in and smash everybody. But we didn’t give him the car to do that.
"He has lifted us up at times with the energy levels he has shown in the briefing room when it was difficult for him.
"For me, knowing him for 10 years from a personality side, from a human side, his attitude and mindset this year was outstanding."