Lewis Hamilton believes that he and McLaren were unable to show their true pace in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after battling brake problems that ultimately forced his retirement.
Pre-race favourite Hamilton led from the start, but a problem with the right-rear brake pad began to show up on the team's data on lap three.
He retired as a precaution after losing top spot to Sebastian Vettel in the first round of pitstops, with the team's preliminary investigation suggesting a one-off faulty brake pad.
"I had a good start, but I realised early on that something wasn't right with the brakes," said Hamilton. "After three or four laps, it became clear that there was a problem with my right-rear brake pad, so I couldn't open up the gap back to Sebastian and Mark [Webber].
"When the problem got worse, the team radioed me and told me to stop at the end of the lap. Of course, it's a shame that we couldn't show the performance we'd had throughout the weekend - but sometimes that's racing.
"However, I think we can be really proud of our efforts: who'd have thought we'd finish third in the Constructors' Championship at the start of this season? It's been an incredible year, and now I can't wait for next season to start so I can fight for the world championship again."
Team principal Martin Whitmarsh paid tribute to Hamilton's performance, and admitted that it could have been dangerous to allow him to continue to run with the faulty brake pad.
"Lewis drove absolutely superbly all weekend - in fact he drove absolutely superbly all year," said Whitmarsh.
"Today, though, after just five laps, his right rear brake pad began to show signs of an unusual level of wear - a rogue pad, we think - and as a result we had to stop him for safety reasons. That was an enormous pity, because up to that point he'd shown blistering pace every day."
Whitmarsh said that he was proud of his team crowning its impressive turnaround after starting the season well off the pace by clinching third in the Constructors' Championship.
"The fact that we beat Ferrari to third place is of course a matter of pride to us, and I want to pay tribute to all at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for the superhuman efforts they all made in achieving that milestone," said Whitmarsh.
"Ferrari are always formidable opponents for us, and next year we hope to beat them again - this time for first place rather than third."