Hamilton energized by time away to race for 8th F1 title

Feb 17, 2022, 5:08 PM | Updated: Feb 18, 2022, 7:09 am
FILE- Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain smiles, after winning the pole position during qua...

FILE- Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, of Britain smiles, after winning the pole position during qualifying for the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix auto race on Dec. 4, 2021, in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. Hamilton returned to social media Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, following a lengthy silence that dates to last season's controversial Formula 1 finale. (Giuseppe Cacace/Pool Photo via AP, File)

(Giuseppe Cacace/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Lewis Hamilton took nearly two months to emotionally recover from the controversial Formula One finale that cost him a record eighth championship. The Mercedes driver insisted Friday he never considered quitting F1 in protest.

Once he accepted the results, Hamilton put the debacle behind him and began preparation for the upcoming season.

“Moments like this might define careers, I refuse to let this define mine,” Hamilton said from Mercedes’ team headquarters in Brackley, England.

Hamilton dominated the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December and was five laps away from breaking a tie with Michael Schumacher for most titles in F1 history. But a Nicholas Latifi crash brought out a caution and set in motion a frenzied sequence of events that altered the finish.

Race director Michael Masi changed his mind when deciding how to conclude the race and Max Verstappen, who had pitted for fresh tires, was lined up second behind Hamilton with all lapped traffic removed between title contenders on a restart with one lap remaining. Hamilton on old tires had little chance to defend Verstappen, who passed the British driver to win his first world title.

The FIA on Thursday announced sweeping changes to its race control procedures and removed Masi as race director following an extensive review of the season finale.

Mercedes has accepted the results of the review and Hamilton said he’s ready for another run at the record book. Hamilton said he takes no issue with Verstappen and has been in contact to offer “my full support” to Latifi, who received death threats following the finale.

“I don’t hold any grudges with anybody; I never think that’s ever a good thing to carry around with you,” he said. “I moved forward. I don’t dwell on the past. I feel centered and fully focused. I don’t have anything over my shoulders holding me back this year.

“If you think what you saw at the end of the last year was my best, wait to see this year.”

Hamilton won three consecutive races to tie Verstappen in the standings headed into the decider in Abu Dhabi. He dominated the race and led 51 of the 58 laps; Verstappen led only the final lap in winning the title.

Hamilton gave just one brief interview after climbing from his car but appeared shell-shocked on the podium as Verstappen and Red Bull celebrated. He skipped the mandatory post-race news conference, boycotted the season-ending gala, and made just one public appearance — three days after the race when Hamilton received his knighthood at Windsor Castle.

Hamilton’s retreat from the public eye did little to quell speculation he was so disgruntled that he was considering walking away from F1 after 103 victories over 15 seasons. He finally re-emerged earlier this month with a social media post, then participated Friday in Mercedes’ launch of its car for the upcoming season.

Hamilton took questions for about 20 minutes Friday and said he spent the time after Abu Dhabi with his entire family — a rare moment they were all together in the same place — as he “just unplugged. Switched off.” He said he focused on being present with his loved ones and has not watched a replay of the race, feeling no urge to revisit the event.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he was “never concerned” that Hamilton would retire.

“We knew he needed to take the time to reflect on things and particularly to understand how he would return in the right frame of mind,” Wolff said. “I think what he did was absolutely right to take himself out of the microcosm of Formula One and step aside. He has come back in a great mindset. He’s positive, he’s determined and he, yet again, adversity that was thrown at him will make him stronger. It’s attack mode.”

Hamilton turned 37 last month and will be paired with fellow British driver George Russell this season as Russell moved from Williams to Mercedes. He said he’s as committed as ever to racing for another title.

“I think at the end of seasons, the question is whether you are willing to commit the time, the effort, that it takes to be a world champion,” Hamilton said. “Do you want to sacrifice the time? Do you believe that you can continue to punch higher than the weight you are punching?

“That’s a normal mental process for me, but of course this one was compounded by a significant factor and I think ultimately a sport that I loved my whole life, there was a moment that I lost a little bit of faith within the system. But I’m generally a very determined person. I am focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger.”

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado Rockies' Ryan McMahon follows the flight of his two-run home run off St. Louis Cardinals r...
Associated Press

McMahon, Grichuk tee off, Rockies end Cards’ win streak at 7

DENVER (AP) — Ryan McMahon hit a 495-foot homer for the longest drive by a Colorado player at Coors Field, Randal Grichuk went 5 for 5 and the Rockies routed St. Louis 16-5 Tuesday night, ending the Cardinals’ seven-game winning streak. Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas, an All-Star this season, was tagged for 10 runs and […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Plum scored 18 of her 22 points in 2nd half, Aces beat Dream

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kelsey Plum scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half, A’ja Wilson had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and the Las Vegas Aces held off the Atlanta Dream 97-90 on Tuesday night. Las Vegas (24-10) pulled within one game of first-place Chicago with two games to play, including hosting […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Firefighters work the scene of a helicopter crash where former NBA basketball star Kobe Brya...
Associated Press

Kobe Bryant crash photos lawsuit to be heard by LA jury

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant was one of the most photogenic sports figures in Los Angeles and images of him seen by millions around the world — smiling in victory, grimacing in agony — keep his memory alive. But some photos of him should never be seen, his widow says, and she’s seeking unspecified […]
22 hours ago
Associated Press

Pirates’ Castro has phone fly from back pocket during slide

PHOENIX (AP) — Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Rodolfo Castro apparently can’t go anywhere without his phone. Called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game, Castro slid headfirst into third in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night and had his phone fly out of his back pocket. Third base umpire Adam Hamari […]
22 hours ago
New York Mets' Francisco Lindor (12) celebrates with Jeff McNeil (1) after the team's baseball game...
Associated Press

Lindor, McNeil back Carrasco as streaking Mets beat Reds 6-2

NEW YORK (AP) — Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil both homered and drove in two runs, leading Carlos Carrasco and the streaking New York Mets past the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 on Tuesday night. Carrasco (13-4) pitched into the seventh inning and struck out nine to win his fifth straight decision and tie for the National […]
22 hours ago
Baltimore Orioles' Anthony Santander gestures after hitting a single against Toronto Blue Jays star...
Associated Press

Orioles rally after rain delay, beat Blue Jays 6-5

BALTIMORE (AP) — Rougned Odor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Baltimore Orioles rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night. The Orioles trailed 5-3 in the sixth when the game was delayed 78 minutes because of rain. Then Baltimore cut the lead […]
22 hours ago
Hamilton energized by time away to race for 8th F1 title