A "numb" Lewis Hamilton bade an emotional farewell to McLaren as his six-year journey with the team ended in bitter frustration.
Just seven days after victory in the United States Grand Prix came a gut-wrenching low, he crashed out in an extraordinary race in Brazil when in the lead. For Hamilton, there is now a month off before joining Mercedes on January 1 on a three-year deal, after leaving a team he has been associated with for the last 14 years.
He said: "Now the season is done and dusted, I feel a bit numb. It's been a day of mixed emotions, and I'm sad I didn't finish the race. But I'm excited about the future. I'll miss my friends and McLaren, but I'm optimistic about what lies ahead for me."
Hamilton added: "I feel comfortable going into this winter because I feel I did a good job this year. I gave 2012 everything I had. I couldn't have done anything more. It's been a brilliant experience to be a part of McLaren over the past six years.
"I want to thank everyone, and sincerely wish everyone the very best for the future. They've been fantastic, so supportive, and they continue to do an amazing job, so to everyone at McLaren, I'll miss each and every one of you."
It is the third time in the last seven races Hamilton has lost out on a maximum haul of points when front running. On this occasion the 27-year-old was slid into by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg as the German attempted to regain a lead he had earlier lost to Hamilton.
The resulting damage saw Hamilton retire for the fifth time this year, and a walk back to the garage where he was given a standing ovation. Hamilton at least wore a rocket-red victory top one final time given team-mate Jenson Button inherited the victory following his collision with Hulkenberg.
It was Button's third triumph of the year for McLaren, and enough to see him finish ahead of Hamilton on total points over their three-year partnership.
Once the furore had died down, Button paid a heart-felt tribute to Hamilton as he said: "We had a really good, clean fight. It's a pity he wasn't still there at the end, but it was nice to have such a great dice with him in our last race as McLaren team-mates.
"And I really want to say this: 'It's been so good working with you, Lewis. Over the past few years, we've driven a lot of great races together. It's been fab'."