Hamilton: Abu Dhabi trauma will always be with me

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen on the 2021 World title. Abu Dhabi December 2021

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton congratulates Max Verstappen on the 2021 World title. Abu Dhabi December 2021

Denied a record-breaking eighth World title in controversial circumstances, Lewis Hamilton says the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a “trauma” that will linger forever.

Hamilton and his title rival Max Verstappen arrived in Abu Dhabi, the final race of the 2021 championship, tied on points in a winner-takes-all situation.

Hamilton was going to be that winner, comfortably ahead of the Red Bull until FIA race director Michael Masi made a controversial call under a late Safety Car to allow only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.

On much fresher tyres, Verstappen made a last-lap-of-the-season pass on Hamilton to take the win and the World title.

Such was the fall-out that for weeks Formula 1 didn’t know if Hamilton would be back on the grid for the start of this year’s championship.

He ultimately decided to continue, the Briton saying while Abu Dhabi will always be a traumatic event in his life, he still loves Formula 1.

“That will always be with me,” he admitted to Channel 4. “I think that’s when anyone experiences this trauma because it can be a traumatic experience when you lose something that you’ve worked hard for, whatever it may be.

“So I think that will always be a part of me, but I would like to think that I’ve gained strength from it, I would say.

“It’s not something I’m looking back on and thinking about ever to be honest. I’m just looking forward.

“What I am grateful for is still the love that I have for my job, for the sport, and the support that I have within the sport but also seeing the change that’s slowly starting to happen.”

The World Drivers' Championship put on display during the press conference at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

Hamilton’s dream of claiming that eighth title this season are perhaps already over, Mercedes’ W13 yet to win a grand prix.

The car, which until the British Grand Prix suffered with severe porpoising, has been woefully off the pace of the front-running RB18 and its Ferrari counterpart.

Hamilton’s best result to date has been three P3s, the Briton even going as far as to say his Canadian GP podium finish felt like a “race win” such has been Mercedes’ struggles.

But while it may seem strange to new fans not to see Hamilton winning grands prix, the 37-year-old reminds people he wasn’t always the dominant driver.

“To me, it doesn’t feel that way because my life has not always been like in seven years have you seen,” he said. “It’s not always been like that.

“Of course I’ve had a lot of success throughout my career but you just change, prioritise differently, you change your expectations, and you adjust and you dig in.

“That’s what we’re doing as a team. We’re just like, huddling together and we’re working. And it’s actually it’s just different.

“There are people in my team who have only known success, winning championships, because they were young, but there are people who have been with the team for 20 plus years, who have been through the struggles and know, kind of revisiting partly…

“Obviously it’s not as bad as it perhaps was many many years ago, but this is actually a really interesting period of time where we’re pulling together with strength in other areas that perhaps when you are winning like we were you have some good time to focus on improving, like teamwork for example.”