Lewis Hamilton has endured a lot across his 16-year career in Formula 1; however, nothing could’ve prepared him for the rules being broken by the FIA during the 2021 season finale.
The one-year anniversary of that controversial day is edging ever closer, with the race having taken place on the 12th December 2021.
Hamilton and Max Verstappen went into the season finale remarkably level on points, in what was quite simply a winner-takes-all scenario.
The battle on the opening lap was intense; however, Hamilton successfully managed to escape at the front and went on to deal with incredible defending by Sergio Pérez following a pit-stop.
It was looking for all the world that, despite the odds, Hamilton was going to become an unprecedented eight-time World Champion, until Lap 53/58.
A crash for Nicholas Latifi saw a very late Safety Car released onto the circuit, which allowed Verstappen to pit for Soft tyres, whereas Hamilton had to defend his position and remained on very old Hards.
The incident was taking much longer to clear than perhaps predicted, meaning that it was looking very likely that the race would finish behind the Safety Car, with there being insufficient time to let all the un-lapped cars through.
However, despite initially saying no lapped cars would be able to overtake the Safety Car, for which there were five in between the two title rivals, it was then revealed moments later that only those between Hamilton and Verstappen could un-lap themselves.
What was even more astonishing was that the race was then immediately restarted, going against the rules of completing another lap behind the Safety Car.
This caused outrage at Mercedes and delight at Red Bull, with Hamilton coming onto the radio to say the race had been “manipulated”.
Hamilton was then overtaken on the final lap by Verstappen, with the Dutchman having superior grip and tyre life over the Brit.
It sealed Verstappen the World Championship, and arguably cost Masi his job, after later being removed from his role due to making a “human error” by going against multiple rules during the finale.
Whilst in Austin for the United States Grand Prix last weekend, Hamilton told a select few in the media how he feels now about that day in Abu Dhabi.
“I don’t know. It feels so long ago now,” Hamilton said in an interview with select media in Austin, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“I think it was just bad decision-making. I’m sure there is ego involved and then there are also the moving parts. There’s people speaking into his ear. I don’t feel like it was particularly targeted.”
Whilst Hamilton has gotten over the incident, what continues to upset him is that the FIA allowed the clear and obvious rule break to take place, something which was questioned by a vast number of the drivers during the race.
“What really was breaking was to just believe that the sport would do something like that, that that would happen in the sport, given that there are so many people who you rely on,” he added.
“You expect that the job would be done right. And an outcome of a world championship, which so many people have worked so hard for, would come out through a wrong decision from somebody, you know?
“That was probably the only thing. It wasn’t for my lack of love for working with my team or racing cars, it was literally that if you can lose a championship through wrongdoing within an organisation, that was the thing that I wondered.
It was really looking like he wasn’t going to come back this season, due to being seemingly completely drained of emotion after he “sacrificed” everything.
Hamilton left social media momentarily before posting for the first time since the finale at the start of this year, where it was then revealed that he would continue this year.
The 103-time Grand Prix winner revealed that his family was what allowed him to “really recover”, with the Brit believing he’d still be in a “hole” without them.
“But I spent time with my family and that was really the best part of the healing really. I just gave all of my time to the kids, building snowmen and just being present with them.
“That enabled me to really recover, really bounce back. If I wasn’t with them, I would have been stuck in a hole.
“I’ve moved on from it. I refuse to live in the past. I have already experienced that in 2007 and, as a youngster, that definitely kept me up at nights and it was just negative.
“When you hold on to some negativity, when you hold on to hate or whatever it is, it is just holding you back.
“I’m going up. And I am going forwards, regardless of what’s happened in the past. I chose not to dwell on it. There is nothing I can do about back then. I gave everything. Like, I gave everything, and I sacrificed.
“But I am willing to do it again. So that’s what I’m trying to work towards.”