Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel look back on 15 years together in Formula 1. While the British world champion continues his career, the German faces his last race in the pinnacle of motorsport in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps a good occasion for Hamilton to look back on the most emotional moment with his long-time adversary as the Mercedes driver reveals his true thoughts about his rival, Sebastian Vettel.
According to Hamilton, it was not about a racing moment or the victory ceremony afterwards. Rather, it was about the joint engagement with fellow drivers in the “Black Lives Matter” movement almost two and a half years ago.
“I’m rarely nervous, but in 2020 at the Austrian race I was,” the seven-time Formula One world champion told Sport Bild, adding:
“I knew I would kneel during the anthem, but not whether other drivers would join in.”
Sebastian Vettel was then one of the first to do the same, Hamilton described, expressing his solidarity and encouragement for the freedom and equality movement.
11 of 13 F1 titles between 2008 and 2020
“He stood by me. We had many duels and great conversations, but this stands out. Actions count more than words,” the British driver said of Vettel, with whom he had battled for years over race wins and podium finishes in Formula One.
The two most successful Formula 1 drivers of the 2010s fought legendary duels on the racetracks of this world, but when it comes to social commitment, they mostly speak the same language.
“I am proud of Seb and the way he stands up for things. I think we will remain friends after his career is over,” said Hamilton, who together with Vettel won a total of 11 of the 13 Formula One world titles between 2008 and 2020.
Hamilton at Abu Dhabi
Vettels’ last race will be in Abu Dhabi, scene of the controversial 2021 Formula One season finale against newest Hamilton rival, Max Verstappen. Can Lewis Hamilton make peace with Abu Dhabi on his return?
Hamilton lost the world championship title to Max Verstappen in the Red Bull in one of the most memorable and controversial finales of motorsport’s pinnacle. Hamilton remains almost unconscious in the chassis.
“I had no strength left. I would say that was one of the most difficult moments I’ve had in a long, long time,” Hamilton later recounted, who now returns here for Sunday’s season finale. That night in the Persian Gulf, the 37-year-old felt cheated.
“My worst fears came alive. I thought to myself there’s no way they’re going to cheat me,
“That’s impossible, that’s not going to happen, definitely not.” says Hamilton to the press.
Race director Michael Masi, the Australian, who was later ousted by the FIA, interpreted the safety car procedure taking into account a pre-agreement between the teams that the finale must end under green flag conditions. Therefore, Verstappen was sable to pass the incredulous Hamilton on the last lap for his first world championship crown using much fresher tyres.
“No, Michael, no, Michael, that wasn’t right!” shouted Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff helplessly over the radio at the time. He scratched his head, over and over, pacing the pits, horrified. “We will never get over it, it’s not possible,” Wolff said after that incredible adrenaline finale.
A lot has happened in Formula One since that day in December, from rumours of Hamilton’s retirement, to Mercedes’ legal pressure on Fia, motorsport’s governing body, and Masi’s subsequent ousted, to Verstappen’s early second title win.
Hamilton and Verstappen even collided once again at the weekend in São Paulo. The stewards blamed the Dutchman, who later caused a major row at Red Bull by refusing to comply with the team order, for the ill-advised overtaking manoeuvre and made him serve a five-second penalty. “I think it’s natural to be a bit of a target when you have the success,” Hamilton said.
“But that’s fine. It’s nothing I haven’t had to deal with before.”
Very likely if Vettel and Hamilton see each other on track in Abu Dhabi, the fight will be far less aggressive than going wheel to wheel with Max Verstappen.