Lewis Hamilton says he has "no issue" with Max Verstappen after the way in which the 2021 season concluded, stressing that the controversy surrounding the Abu Dhabi finale "has nothing to do with him".
Hamilton and Verstappen were involved in a fierce head-to-head battle for last year's F1 crown and entered the final race of the campaign equal on points – only the second time in the sport's history that this has occurred.
Hamilton was on course to win what would have been a record-breaking eighth world title, only for a contentious late Safety Car period to open the door for Verstappen, who duly seized his opportunity.
Hamilton: Verstappen did what any driver would do
As the F1 world regroups for the 2022 season, and a new era of technical regulations, Hamilton played down the suggestion that there might be increased tensions with Verstappen and Red Bull after last year's showdown.
"This has nothing to do with Max," Hamilton told media, including RacingNews365.com, in his first full interview since the race.
"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 we had last year also through the season, but [I've got] no issues with him."
He continued: "I don't hold any grudges with anybody; I never think that's ever a good thing to carry around with you.
"I move forwards. I don't dwell on the past. I feel fresh, I feel centred and fully focused.
"I don't have anything 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."
Hamilton vows to be even stronger in 2022
Putting 2021 behind him, and using what happened in Abu Dhabi as energy, Hamilton promised to come back as the best possible version of himself.
"With these long seasons, the off-time isn't as long as you would hope for, and it seems to get shorter and shorter," he added.
"But I think over the years, I've learned how to be efficient with my time, with my recovery, with training and building back up both your body and your mind – I feel great, I feel fit.
"Naturally, when you have an extra year of experience under your belt, that always helps. I always feel like, through these sorts of experiences, you can turn that emotion into strength and into power, and that's what I'm doing.
"I'm putting that into my training, putting that into the work that I have with the men and women here in this team, and if you think what you saw at the end of the last year was my best, wait until you see this year..."
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