Abu Dhabi 2021 heartache taken ‘long time to heal’ says Mercedes driver after British GP win

Lewis Hamilton British GP 2024

Hamilton experienced what he described as his “most emotional end to a win” ever in F1 on Sunday after taking the chequered flag for a record ninth time at Silverstone, with the seven-time champion breaking down in tears on his slow-down lap back to the pit lane.

The victory ended a 56-race drought – the longest the 39-year-old had previously gone without winning in F1 was 10 races – since the penultimate round of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia amid Hamilton’s tense title duel with Max Verstappen.

In the following season-ending and title-deciding round in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton was leading and on course to claim a record eighth world crown before Verstappen overtook him on the final lap after an incorrect handling of the Safety Car restart procedure by then-race director Michael Masi, in a highly-controversial finale which the FIA later said was the result of “human error”.

Hamilton told Sky Sports after Sunday’s race that he had questioned during moments since the end of 2021 whether he had wanted to continue in the sport amid Mercedes’ subsequent fall from the F1 summit.

Speaking in the later post-race press conference at Silverstone, Hamilton said in direct reference to Abu Dhabi 2021: “Honestly, when I came back in 2022, I thought that I was over it. And I know I wasn’t and it’s taken a long time for sure to heal that kind of feeling.

“And that’s only natural for anyone that has that experience. “And I’ve just been continuing to try and work on myself and find that inner peace day by day.”

Hamilton on his mental health challenges and self doubts

Having suffered the heartache of losing out on becoming F1’s only eight-time champion after the most intense title fight the sport had seen for years, Hamilton returned for the following season after a winter in which he had mulled his future in the sport only to find himself and Mercedes suddenly of contention for victories and more titles after the team were caught out at the start of the sport’s new ground-effect regulation era.

That struggles for a breakthrough continued on in to this season, with Mercedes only recently finding what Hamilton has termed a “North Star” in their car development and returning to front-running contention. Hamilton’s Silverstone triumph their second in as many weeks after team-mate George Russell won in Austria after Verstappen and Lando Norris collided late on.

Reflecting on the two-and-a-half year road back to the top step of the podium, Hamilton opened up on the challenging period he had got through since Abu Dhabi and why he had been brought to tears by his 104th win.

“I think with the kind of the adversity I would say that we’ve gone through as a team and that I personally felt, that I’ve experienced, those challenges, the constant challenge like we all have to get out of bed every day and give it our best shot,” he said.

“And, you know, there’s so many times where you feel like your best shot is just not good enough. And the disappointment sometimes that you can feel, you know, and we live in a time where mental health is such a serious issue. And I’m not going to lie, that I have experienced that.

“And there’s definitely been moments where you know, the thought that this was it, that that was never going to happen again. So to have this feeling come across the line, I think, honestly, I’ve never cried coming from a win. It just came out of me. And it’s a really, really great feeling. I’m very, very grateful for it.”

Wolff: Win a weight off Hamilton’s shoulders

Hamilton’s boss at Mercedes, Toto Wolff – who has spoken openly about his own challenges with mental health – believes the 39-year-old’s return to the winner’s circle will provide a big boost.

“It’s clear our relationship goes back a long time and each of us has suffered at various stages,” said Wolff, who has worked with Hamilton throughout his 11-year Mercedes career.

“He has been there for me and most recently I’ve tried to do my contribution to his doubting at times.

“That’s what it feels really good that he has been able to put all the negativity aside and come up with this performance.

“I think it’s a weight off his shoulders.”

Hamilton’s record-breaking ninth British GP win brought up several significant statistical milestones and it was also a particularly poignant one for both driver and team given it was the final time he will race on home soil for the Brackley-based outfit before his winter switch to Ferrari.

Hamilton has claimed eighth of his nine home with Mercedes since joining from McLaren in 2013.

“It was so difficult over the last two years that we couldn’t really find performance and couldn’t give the drivers a car that enabled them to go for the victories,” added Wolff.

“And to make him win again at the British Grand Prix in his last race for Mercedes here is almost like a little fairytale.

“We couldn’t have scripted it better.”

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