In a recent interview for Vanity Fair, the 7-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton returned to talk about the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the race that vanished his hopes of winning the eighth world title.
Abu Dhabi will always be remembered for its singularity. Recall that Hamilton and Max Verstappen, after a long season of battles on track, were tied on points: whoever finished ahead of the other in the race would become champion.
With five laps to go Hamilton was leading the Red Bull driver by 11 seconds, but that’s when everything changed: after a safety car developed following an incident involving the Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, race director Michael Masi made a decision that changed the tide of the championship.
After an initial message saying lapped cars would not be allowed to overtake, the Australian changed his mind. The cars between Hamilton and Verstappen were only allowed to unlap themselves. The Safety Car was then brought in on the penultimate lap, allowing for one final lap.
Verstappen, who was right behind Hamilton with fresh tyres, easily overtook him, becoming the 2021 World Champion.
“You see things start to unfold,” the British driver said, remembering, “and my worst fears came alive. I was like, there’s no way they’re going to cheat me out of this. There’s no way. That won’t happen. Surely not.”
Asked about the sensation and the emotion he felt right after going out of the car, the Mercedes driver replied: “I don’t know if I can really put into words the feeling that I had.”
“I do remember just sitting there just in disbelief. And realizing I’ve got to undo my belts, I’ve got to get out of there, I’ve got to climb out of this thing, I’ve got to find the strength. I had no strength. And it was one of the toughest moments, I would say, that I’ve had in a long, long time.”
Lastly, suggested if he somehow have felt cheated and if he considered the idea of retirement after what had happened, Hamilton added: “I knew what had happened.”
“I knew what decisions had been made and why. Yes, I knew that something wasn’t right.”
“I, for sure, considered whether I wanted to continue”