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Lewis Hamilton Speaks on 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Controversy

“But I’m at peace with it.” – Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen x Hamilton

Verstappen and on-track rival Lewis Hamilton had been battling all season, with a lot of crashes and pivotal moments bringing their title duel to the final race of the year.

Hamilton and Verstappen were tied on 369.5 points heading into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and fans were gripped by an incredible winner-take-all title decider.

Prior to a late safety car halt, Mercedes’ Hamilton appeared to be on his way to his eighth world title, but everything changed on Lap 53 when the FIA, led by Michael Masi, made one of the boldest calls in recent history.

So What Happened That Day?

With the title on the line, the race weekend began with Verstappen securing the season’s final pole position in spectacular fashion, beating Hamilton into second place.

But his lead didn’t last even a corner in the following race, as the British driver made a quick start to pass his adversary into the first corner.

Verstappen attempted in vain to regain his advantage later on Lap One by dodging down the inside at circuit six, but Hamilton cut the corner and retained the Grand Prix lead despite Red Bull’s protests.

Again, Hamilton pulled away though, picking up a 13-second lead before the Williams back marker of Nicholas Latifi crashed at corner 14 which brought out a very late safety car on lap 53. 

Verstappen pitted on new soft tyres, but Hamilton remained on hard tyres, hoping that it would be enough to cross the line in first place and secure his eighth world championship. Instead, the FIA had other ideas, and while lapped caps remained in position at first, five of the seven were eventually allowed to overtake Hamilton, putting Verstappen right behind him.

With one lap remaining, the safety car entered the pits, and as they say, the rest is history, as Verstappen raced past Hamilton on his much newer tyres to win the first of his three World Drivers’ Championships.

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix aftermath

Understandably, Hamilton and his Mercedes team were furious with the conclusion of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which gave Verstappen the championship, and they immediately contested the decision.

The German manufacturers argued that FIA chief Masi had failed to respect sporting regulations by allowing only five of the seven lapped cars to unlap themselves under safety car conditions. It was evident the decision should not have been made, but the outcome stood after the stewards exonerated Verstappen of all wrongdoing.

Hamilton would go on to tell the press that “only once in the history of the sport have they not followed the rule.”

Mercedes subsequently announced their intention to take their case to the International Court of Appeal, but they eventually dropped their appeal before the FIA’s end-of-season banquet, which team principal Toto Wolff and Hamilton both refused to attend.

Hamilton on the pain of 2021

This hurt the seven-time world champion a lot. Speaking to GQ, he says it still hurts from time to time. “If I see a clip of it, I still feel it. But I’m at peace with it,” he said.

Lewis Hamilton insists he is “at peace” with the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – but insists he was “robbed”.

The end of Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ glory era and the beginning of Red Bull’s dominant spell was the final round of the 2021 F1 season.


Hamilton had hoped to compete for the title again in 2022, but his team completely missed the mark with the new technical regulations. The Briton has not won a race since the 2021 season. While not the results he had hoped for, he sees the upside of that too. “My fans were really ride-or-die. I couldn’t understand it at first: ‘Guys, but I’m not winning anything!’ But I’ve realised it’s not easy to relate to someone who’s always finishing first. It’s inspiring.”

“Was I robbed? Obviously,” Hamilton has said.

“I mean, you know the story.

“But I think what was really beautiful in that moment, which I take away from it, was my dad was with me.

“And we’d gone through this huge roller coaster of life together, ups and downs.

“And the day that it hurt the most, he was there, and the way he raised me was to always stand up, keep your head high.

“And I obviously went to congratulate Max, and not realising the impact that that would have, but also I was really conscious of, like, there’s a mini-me watching.

“This is the defining moment of my life.

“And I think it really was. I felt it. I didn’t know how it was going to be perceived.

“I hadn’t, like, visualised it. But I was definitely conscious of: these next 50 metres that I walk is where I fall to the ground and die – or I rise up.”

Hamilton was asked if he still fixates on that grand prix, and he replied: “If I see a clip of it, I still feel it.

“But I’m at peace with it.”

Hamilton has not won an F1 grand prix since then.

Verstappen, meanwhile, is on track for a fourth title in a row.

Each driver is at the center of the driver market, which might disrupt the 2025 season.

Hamilton will head to Ferrari in the hopes of earning his ninth title.

Verstappen is being considered as his replacement at Mercedes, amidst an internal conflict at Red Bull.

Nearly three years after their notorious encounter, additional chapters of the Verstappen-Hamilton rivalry need to be written.

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