Lewis Hamilton says Abu Dhabi GP was ‘manipulated’, apologises to German driver

Lewis Hamilton saw himself lose the 2021 drivers’ championship during an unusual safety car restart procedure initiated by Michael Masi.

Lewis Hamilton experienced the heartbreak of a lifetime in 2021, as he saw his record breaking eighth world title snatched away from him on the final lap of the final race of the season.

The Mercedes driver had built up a comfortable lead over Max Verstappen in the race before a spin from Nicholas Latifi brought out the safety car, at a time where Verstappen could pit for fresh soft tyres, while Hamilton was forced to stay out on hards.

It looked set that the race would finish under the safety car, until race director Michael Masi allowed only the cars between the championship rivals to unlap themselves, setting up one final lap of racing where Verstappen overtook his rival on the fresh tyres to win his first championship.

Masi has since been sacked following the controversial safety car procedure, with many believing that it was the wrong thing to do, and that the race was manipulated in Verstappen’s favour.

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In a recent interview with former F1 driver Timo Glock, Hamilton spoke out about that night in Abu Dhabi, clearly still hurt by the incident and rightly so.

The Brit won his first ever title in Brazil in 2008, when Glock experienced issues that forced him to slow down on the final corner of the race, allowing Hamilton to overtake him at the death which granted him enough points to beat Filipe Massa, which the seven-time world champion claims is nothing like his 2021 heartbreak.

“2008 was not manipulated. That was different,” said Hamilton when speaking to Glock.

“It wasn’t the case in the last race of last season. Someone made a decision that the result should be the way it was.”

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Michael Masi was subject to death threats after the race and was eventually sacked, but Hamilton has told Glock that he had no idea that the German driver experienced similar threats as it was his perfectly timed mechanical issue that snatched the title off of Felipe Masa.

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“I didn’t understand what was going on for you in your world,” he explained.

“I was very young, so I’m sorry I wasn’t able to support you in that time.”

It had been initially rumoured that Verstappen could be stripped of his 2021 title as a result of Red Bull’s cost cap breach punishment, but after it has been confirmed that this will not be the case, Hamilton will be hunting for redemption in 2023.