Hamilton calls shoot-out ‘manipulated’ in unaired message

Henry Valantine
Lewis Hamilton on the podium. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Lewis Hamilton waves to the crowd while on the podium. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

In a radio message not heard on TV, Lewis Hamilton described the last lap of the race in Abu Dhabi as being “manipulated”.

A late Safety Car period prompted by Nicholas Latifi’s crash saw the field bunch back together, with several lapped cars separating Hamilton from Max Verstappen.

The decision from race director Michael Masi came to allow those cars past the Safety Car, putting the Red Bull driver right behind the Mercedes heading into the final lap of the race.

Verstappen, on much fresher tyres, made his move on Hamilton down at Turn 5 and managed to defend Hamilton’s fightback heading to Turn 9, and held on to take his first World title.

But after being passed on that final lap, Hamilton said he felt that sprint to the line wasn’t what he felt could have played out.

“This has been manipulated, man,” came his message with a few corners remaining, which was not broadcast on the global TV feed, but was heard on Hamilton’s on-board radio channel on F1 TV.

Drivers and pundits have spoken out about how the race was set up for the final lap, with McLaren driver Lando Norris saying the move by the FIA was done “for the TV” to create a high-pressure finale.

In the Mercedes, Hamilton’s race engineer Pete Bonnington had kept his driver in the loop about the decision to allow those cars by, which caused controversy and a protest from the team as they felt it contravened the FIA’s own rules on the situation.

But after Hamilton crossed the line, ‘Bono’ spoke to his driver and simply said: “I’m just speechless Lewis, absolutely speechless.”

The Mercedes driver did not respond throughout the cooldown lap, and stayed in his car in parc ferme while he gathered his thoughts – and forgot to drive his car onto the grid to park in the appropriate P2 spot.


Hamilton spoke to Jenson Button after the race, but did not take part in the post-race press conference or conduct any other interviews after the chequered flag had dropped, pending the result of Mercedes’ protests.

After both appeals were dismissed, Hamilton and senior Mercedes staff members left the track without completing any of their usual media commitments.


Formula 1 controversy like no other

The call made at the end will be talked about until the end of time.