ABU DHABI: Lewis Hamilton returns to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, 11 months after one of the most vindictive days in Formula 1 history, insisting he has put the past behind him him.
His bid for an unprecedented eighth World Drivers’ title at the Yas Marina circuit last December was thwarted by a combination of incorrect decisions by race officials, miserable bad luck and the opportunism of Max Verstappen.
As a result, while his Mercedes team triumphed in the constructors’ title race for an eighth consecutive season, he still had to digest the outcome of a sporting injustice that has reverberated ever since.
But Hamilton, who will turn 38 in January, and whose gesture of congratulating his Dutch rival the day after that bitter defeat hid deep disappointment, remained stoic.
As Red Bull and Verstappen took glory in the Teams and Drivers’ Championships this year, while Mercedes struggled to understand and develop a stubbornly temperamental car, he became entirely a team man.
His third consecutive runner-up finish as team-mate George Russell claimed his maiden Grand Prix victory in Brazil last Sunday was a reward of emotional significance just as, ironically, Red Bull’s unity was threatened by internal strife.
“I’m really here in the present,” he said, ahead of this weekend’s season finale.
“I’m not coming at all thinking about the past, not at all. I’m focused. I don’t know if our car will perform well here this weekend, but if there’s a chance we’ll give it a shot. .
While other unverified allegations on Wednesday fueled a simmering row between Verstappen and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, whose heroic defensive driving last year saw the Dutchman triumph, the ‘Silver Arrows’ occupied a unit position.
“For me, our success in Brazil, the double last Sunday, is entirely down to the huge effort of our team’s workforce in the UK,” Hamilton said.
“They’ve been so determined all year.”
Sunday’s race won’t have the high stakes of 2021, but for Hamilton it represents a last chance to keep alive his winning record at least once in every season of his record-breaking Formula 1 career.
He has a record total of 103 wins to his name, including five at the Yas Marina track where Verstappen has won the last two contests, but those stats aren’t his or Mercedes’ priority.
“Lewis doesn’t need us to prioritize him and he never would either,” team boss Toto Wolff said.
With Hamilton praised and Russell praised, Verstappen is under scrutiny over his refusal to obey team orders and help Perez last Sunday at Interlagos in a way that sparked a lot of controversy. reviews on social media.
Perez, with icy undertones, said Verstappen had ‘shown who he really was’ while the two-time champion refused to explain his motives.
After an emergency meeting, Red Bull say the pair have reconciled and Verstappen will help Perez this weekend as he strives to finish second in the title chase and give Red Bull a boost. end of season.
Verstappen will be looking for a record 15th win in a single season but looked rocked in Brazil where he finished sixth and was blamed for a reckless collision with Hamilton – and Ferrari overtook Red Bull to follow both Mercedes home.
In a weekend of several tie-breaking encounters, two-time champion Fernando Alonso will be looking to sign in style for Alpine, who are hoping to finish fourth among the constructors, before moving on to Aston Martin.
They lead McLaren, who suffered an unnecessary double drop in Brazil by 19 points, so be sure to take the millions of dollars in prize money on offer.
Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, 35, will also bid farewell, not only to Aston Martin, but also to F1 and the circuit where he won his first title in 2010.
“I’m sure this race will bring back fond memories of the past 15 years,” he said. “And I want to go out on a high.”