‘My love for the sport is the same as before’: Lewis Hamilton insists he is still committed to Formula One as he returns to the scene of his greatest agony in Abu Dhabi this weekend
- Lewis Hamilton was denied an eighth F1 world title on the final lap of last season
- He has had a difficult season this year, failing to win a single race for Mercedes
- Hamilton returns to Abu Dhabi this weekend, the scene of his 2021 finale agony
- The 37-year-old insists he is still in love with Formula One despite his struggles
Lewis Hamilton has returned to the scene of his deepest agony, declaring he still loves Formula One as much as ever.
The Yas Marina track has been called a ‘crime scene’ by some after race director Michael Masi freelanced the safety car rules by restarting last year’s title-decider before all the cars had unlapped.
Hamilton was then passed by Max Verstappen, who snatched the world title and denied the Briton an eighth crown.
Lewis Hamilton was overtaken by Max Verstappen on the final lap of last year’s F1 finale
Hamilton saw his chances of an eighth F1 world title go up in smoke in Abu Dhabi in 2021
Masi paid with his job and was assailed by abuse, including death threats. Hamilton, meanwhile, retreated to America to lick his wounds and ponder his future.
Nearly a year on, Hamilton is still trying to blot out the memories. Asked if he had watched the fateful events, and studied if he could have defended Verstappen’s overtake, achieved on newer tyres, he replied: ‘I don’t look in the past to think what I could have done better.’
Asked if his perception of Formula One had been dulled by the experience, he added: ‘I don’t think so. Maybe at the beginning but now my love for the sport is the same as before. My commitment hopefully shows that.’
The best response would be victory here Sunday on the same man-made island circuit. It would be Hamilton’s first of the season and only Mercedes’ second, after George Russell’s win in Brazil last week.
Hamilton has said that he is still in love with Formula One despite his disappointing season
Of his team’s 2022 travails, Hamilton said: ‘It’s been a much, much different year, one that naturally none of us expected.
‘It has taught us lessons about things we had not experienced before. It’s made us stronger.’
Hamilton was fourth fastest in practice on Friday in 30°C heat. Verstappen led, Russell was second best and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.
Over in race control, FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem revealed he remains in contact with Masi.
The 43-year-old has returned to his native Australia, where he is now chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission. But the Emirati former rally driver, who sacked his top official, hinted Masi was too keen on promoting his media profile, adding: ‘If you keep doing your work you have to keep away from a lot of media because it can get into your mind. Who are the superstars? Nobody other than the drivers.’
Addressing whether Sergio Perez deliberately crashed in qualifying at Monaco to secure pole — as Verstappen has privately alleged of his Red Bull team-mate — Ben Sulayem said: ‘I didn’t have anyone (at the FIA) who said we wanted it investigated, but if there is something to be looked into we are more than happy to do it. I will not hide from it.’
Formula One have launched a new women-only racing series, F1 Academy, in an attempt to nurture the first female grand prix driver in almost half a century.
It is open to those aged 16 or over and will be held in 2023 over seven events, one them on the F1 undercard. Lella Lombardi was the last woman to compete in F1 in 1976.
TV: LIVE Sky Sports. Saturday: Qualifying, 2pm. Sunday: Race starts 1pm.
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