McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo has revealed he “felt for” Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In the 2021 season finale, a late Safety Car saw Hamilton lose the Drivers’ Championship to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the dying embers of the race.
With just two laps remaining, Race Control brought the Safety Car in, allowing only the lapped cars between the two title contenders through to pass. Hamilton, who had dominated the race, was helpless to Verstappen’s challenge on much fresher tyres.
Verstappen went on to win the race and the Championship, with Hamilton missing out on a record-breaking eighth title.
The controversial move rocked F1 over the winter, with the FIA launching an investigation into the events of the race. The report of the findings is due at the World Motorsports Council meeting on March 18.
Ricciardo was directly behind Hamilton and Verstappen at the restart, albeit a lap behind. The 2021 Italian Grand Prix winner had a good view of the controversial moment and admits he felt sympathy for Hamilton at the time.
“All I knew at the time is Lewis had a relatively big lead,” said Ricciardo, quoted by Crash.net.
“It looked like it was going to be wrapped up and then with one lap to go there was a restart and I knew Max had pitted for fresher tyres and I don’t think Lewis could have pitted, so I was just like ‘wow’.
“At that time, I really just felt for Lewis. He was laps away [from winning the title] and then through this he couldn’t pit and then he was a bit of a sitting duck with one lap to go.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who shared the podium with Hamilton and Verstappen, admitted the seven-time former World Champion was “struggling” immediately after the race.
Ricciardo has echoed Sainz’s thoughts, the Australian admitting he would not want to feel the kind of heartbreak Hamilton endured.
“It’s not often you put yourself in another driver’s shoes,” continued Ricciardo. “But for whatever reason I was putting myself in his shoes that night, probably because I was seeing it all unfold in front of me. I was like ‘I would not like to feel that – that’s some real heartbreak’.”
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