Sir Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he benefitted from the controversial decision that was made by the FIA at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix.
He also compared the end of the race on Sunday to the season finale in Abu Dhabi in 2021, where the rules were “changed.”
Hamilton was comfortably leading Mac Verstappen heading into the final few laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix back in December, when the Safety Car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi’s crash.
This gave Verstappen a free stop, putting five lapped cars between the title protagonists, and race director Michael Masi initially ruled that none of the lapped cars would be allowed through.
However, he changed his mind ahead of the final tour, and decided to allow only those five cars to get their lap back.
This was due to time constraints, and because the Australian had not realised clearing up Latifi’s car was going to take so long, he hurriedly made a late call to create an entertaining finish to the championship.
This disadvantaged the seven-time champion, and Verstappen took advantage of the situation, claiming his maiden world title on the final lap of the race.
In Monza, the Safety Car was deployed late on when Daniel Ricciardo suffered a mechanical problem, but the marshals could not get the car into neutral so they could not wheel it back to the gate.
Race control therefore needed to get the recovery vehicle out on track, and the cherry picker was moving with the stricken McLaren in tow while cars were going past it – a horrible sight that brought back memories of the mistakes that led to Jules Bianchi’s tragic passing.
There were two lapped cars – Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda – between leader Max Verstappen and second-placed Charles Leclerc, but race control did not have enough time to let all the lapped cars go.
Indeed, after the 2021 season, the regulations were changed to reflect that “all,” instead of “any” lapped runners are to be allowed through at the race director’s discretion.
In the end, race control did not feel that they had the time to restart the race under green flag running, so Verstappen crossed the line under yellow flags.
While the end was a frustrating one for the fans, the circumstances meant that finishing behind the Safety Car was the most suitable option, as it should have been in Abu Dhabi in the eyes of Hamilton.
“That is the rules, how it should be, right?” he told Sky Italy after the race.
“There’s only one time in the history of the sport that they haven’t done the rules like that today and that’s the one where it changed the result of the championship, but it is what it is.”
The 37-year-old had started the race in 19th after taking grid penalties, but he made his way up to fifth by carving his way through the field, so he ultimately walked away satisfied.
“It was a good race, I didn’t expect [that result,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.
“The guys were saying that anywhere between six and fourth was possible and I went, ‘that always feels a stretch for me.’
“But, no I had fun, I struggled at the beginning just with the car heavy and with the tyres behind everyone and trying to avoid a collision at the first corner and ended up stuck behind an AlphaTauri once again.
“But I’m really, really grateful to have made my way through and got those points.
“I think at the end, the two cars behind had fresher tyres so I’m kind of glad that it finished the way it did,” he added, admitting that he benefitted from the decision.
Hamilton’s team-mate, George Russell, grabbed Mercedes’ 13th podium of the season by crossing the line third behind Verstappen and Leclerc.