Lewis Hamilton says the fallout from the 2021 season has nothing to do with Max Verstappen and he has no issues with the way his rival handled himself in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen won the drivers’ championship by overtaking Hamilton on the final lap of the deciding race, following a controversial race restart ordered by race director Michael Masi. The FIA announced on Thursday that Masi would no longer be in the role as part of a major restructuring of the whole system, but Hamilton has no ill-feeling towards Red Bull or Verstappen for the way they capitalized on the situation.
“This has nothing to do with Max,” Hamilton said. “Max did everything a driver would do given the opportunity he was given. He’s a great competitor and we will go into another battle like we did last year and conduct ourselves, hopefully…. We’ll obviously grow from our races and experiences last year through the season, but no issues with him.
“I don’t hold any grudges with anybody. I never think that’s good to carry around with you, so I move forwards and don’t dwell on the past. As I said before, I feel fresh, I feel centered, and fully focused. I don’t have anything holding over my shoulders, holding me back this year — not that I did last year, but I’m not letting that experience be one of those.”
Appearing at the launch of the Mercedes W13 at Silverstone, Hamilton — who had not spoken about Abu Dhabi since the race ended — says the announcements from the FIA regarding the changes it is making is the first step towards avoiding similar incidents in future.
“No, I absolutely didn’t re-watch the race! It was something that I was very clear in my mind, the experience, and it replayed in my mind quite a lot in the coming weeks after the race. I don’t remember what I said to Max, it’s all a bit of a blur … I’ve not revisited it.
“I don’t particularly want to look backwards, I want to look forwards. What I will say from yesterday, whilst we can’t change the past, and nothing will ever really be able to change the way and how I felt at the time and how I feel about the situation, it’s good to see the FIA are taking steps to make improvements.
“I think accountability is key and we have to use this moment to make sure this never happens to anyone else in this sport ever again. Even with everything said by the FIA, I welcome that, but we have to make sure we keep a close eye and make sure we are seeing those changes and rules are applied fairly and accurately, consistently.”