Lewis Hamilton says "his worst fears came alive" in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he realised what was unfolding in the championship decider.
Hamilton and title rival Max Verstappen went into the final race of 2021 level on 369.5 points apiece, meaning whoever finished ahead would be World Champion.
History was on the line as either F1 would crown its first eight-time World Champion or its 34th.
With just five laps of the Yas Marina Circuit to run, Hamilton – on worn Hard tyres – enjoyed an 11-second lead over Red Bull's Verstappen, before Williams racer Nicholas Latifi crashed, bringing out the Safety Car.
Restart rules dictated that all lapped cars should overtake, and racing resume at the end of the next lap, in this case Lap 58.
However, that was the final lap of the race, meaning if Race Director Michael Masi had followed the rulebook, the race would have ended behind the Safety Car, and Hamilton would be an eight-time World Champion.
Masi elected to only allow the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to overtake, and brought the Safety Car in at the end of Lap 57 – meaning there'd be one lap to decide the title.
Using much fresher rubber, Verstappen stormed past Hamilton at the Turn 5 hairpin, going on to win the race and title in controversial circumstances.
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Hamilton's "worst fears" over Abu Dhabi
"You see things start to unfold, and my worst fears came alive," Hamilton explained in an interview with Vanity Fair.
"I was like: 'There's no way they're going to cheat me out of this. There's no way. That won't happen. Surely not.'
"I don't know if I can really put into words the feeling that I had.
"I do remember just sitting there just in disbelief. And realising I've got to undo my belts, I've got to get out of there, I've got to climb out of this thing, I've got to find the strength.
"I had no strength. And it was one of the toughest moments, I would say, that I've had in a long, long time.
"I knew what had happened. I knew what decisions had been made and why. I knew that something wasn't right."
Anthony Hamilton consoles Lewis
After he climbed out the Mercedes, Hamilton congratulated Verstappen on his title win, and was also consoled by his father Anthony in Parc Ferme.
"He embraced me, and I think he was like: 'I want you to know how proud I am of you,'" recalled Hamilton.
"Having your father embrace you in that way is one of the most profound things I've ever [experienced.]
"Especially as I've grown up not many times having that."
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