Lewis Hamilton felt the worst heartbreak imaginable to a Formula 1 driver in Abu Dhabi last year, seeing his record breaking eighth title snatched away from him on the last lap of the last race by Max Verstappen.
The circumstances in which Verstappen claimed his maiden title were controversial to say the least, as race director Michael Masi only allowed lapped cars between the two challengers to unlap themselves, ensuring that there would be a single racing lap rather than finishing the race under the safety car.
Hamilton had dominated the entire race and sailed off into the distance, but the timing of Nicholas Latifi’s crash saw Verstappen pit for soft tyres while he was forced to stay out of old hards, meaning that the Brit was defenceless on the race restart.
Masi has since been relieved of his duties by the FIA, and Hamilton himself believes that the race was manipulated by someone who had decided what the race result should be, hence the unorthodox safety car procedure.
The seven-time world champion will be returning to the Yas Marina circuit for the final race of the 2022 season, and has claimed that he is only focused on the present rather than thinking about last year’s dramatic ending.
“I’m very much living in the present, so I won’t be arriving thinking of the past,” said the 37-year-old.
“I don’t know if we are going to be able to win this weekend, or if the car will work well here with the two straights but if there’s a chance we’ll be gunning for it.”
Mercedes started the season slowly, looking significantly off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari as they battle porpoising issues, and lost a lot of ground in the development race.
Hamilton was shown the blue flags in Imola as he was lapped by his 2021 rival Verstappen, but the team have looked more like themselves of late, even completing a one-two finish last time out in Brazil, which Hamilton has credited to the hard working staff at Mercedes.
“It’s all down to the huge workforce we have back in the UK, they’ve just been so determined all year,” explained the British hero.
“It’s been frustrating for them for all the work they had already done last winter to turn out the way it did, but rather than sulking and being down, everyone has just been geed up and fighting all year long.”
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will present the final opportunity for Hamilton to prevent 2022 from being his first ever winless season since he entered the sport.