Lewis Hamilton was denied a record eighth F1 title in Abu Dhabi after a controversial safety car decision allowed Max Verstappen to pinch a last-lap win
Lewis Hamilton provided a cryptic message – which could be interpreted as a retirement hint – after Max Verstappen was crowned one of Formula One’s most controversial world champions.
Verstappen sensationally overtook Hamilton on the final lap of a hugely controversial Abu Dhabi race to pip the Brit to the championship.
But Verstappen only got his chance after race director Michael Masi allowed five lapped cars to go past Hamilton before a safety car came in, putting the Red Bull driver on the Brit’s tail with just one lap of racing remaining. And Verstappen dramatically darted ahead of Hamilton to win the world title.
“I think we did an amazing job this year,” Hamilton said immediately after the race. “My team worked so hard this whole year, it’s been the most difficult of seasons.
“We gave it everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing.
“We’ll see about next year.”
Interpret that as you will but there is little doubt he will be back for more.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff launched a DOUBLE protest, claiming Verstappen had, at one point, illegally nudged ahead of Hamilton when behind the safety car, and that the regulations were not followed when Masi brought in that safety car.
Mercedes insisted it should have stayed out for one more lap, meaning Hamilton would have followed it to victory.
Will Lewis Hamilton retire from F1 this winter? Comment below
The protests were rejected by the stewards and Mercedes immediately registered a notice of intention to submit a second appeal, which would need to be tabled by Thursday.
But even if Mercedes do continue with their formal objections, the final standings are extremely unlikely to be altered.
A gracious Hamilton congratulated his bitter rival immediately after the race but Verstappen then had to wait FOUR HOURS before his first championship triumph was confirmed.
“It is disappointing we had to go through that,” said Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner. “It has been an amazing year. I’m proud of Max and the whole team. He is the world champion and the deserving world champion.”
After the ruling, Verstappen said: “I might have a tiny drink. It’s been a stressful day!”
Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Hamilton looked to be cruising to an eighth crown until Nicholas Latifi’s late crash brought out the safety car.
And then Masi’s contentious decision gave Verstappen an unlikely chance to grab glory.
The new champion, the first non-Mercedes driver to triumph since 2014, said: “That was insane. It summed up the season – unpredictable and crazy.
“This has been a dream of mine – it is unbelievable.”
And Verstappen tried to bury the hatchet with his bitter rival, saying: “Lewis is an amazing driver and an amazing competitor. We’ve had some tough times but that’s all part of the sport and of the emotion. He is a great competitor.”
But the circumstances of the victory still left a sour taste in some mouths with Williams driver George Russell, who will be Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate next year, tweeting: “Max is an absolutely fantastic driver and I have nothing but huge respect for him but what happened is absolutely unacceptable.
“I cannot believe what we have seen. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.