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Lewis Hamilton is ‘disillusioned’ after Abu Dhabi, says Toto Wolff

By Andrew Benson | BBC News |

Lewis Hamilton is “disillusioned” and will never get over the events of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, says Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff.

Hamilton was “robbed” of the title and the decisions made over a late-race safety car “still feel like a nightmare”, Wolff said.

He said he could not guarantee if Hamilton would continue to race in F1.

“As a racer, his heart will say: ‘I need to continue’ because he’s at the peak of his game,” Wolff said.

“But we have to overcome the pain that was caused upon him.

“I am in a daily dialogue with him. But there is not a lot to talk (about) at the moment. Each of us copes in their own way with the feelings we have at the moment.

“I just need to do the utmost I can to help him to overcome the feelings that he has in order for him to return strong with a love of the sport and trust in the decision-making of the sport next year.

“And we wish very much that this would be the case.”

Mercedes decided on Thursday not to pursue their appeal against the results of the race, after governing body the FIA pledged to conduct a thorough review of what happened and to “learn lessons”.

Wolff said Mercedes would “hold the FIA to account” but he had “confidence, trust and faith” that the teams and drivers could work with the governing body to create a “more robust decision-making process”.

He said that Mercedes believed they would have won their case on pure legal grounds but they did not think the FIA court of appeal would reach the right judgement.

“The FIA can’t really mark their own homework,” Wolff said. “There is a difference between being right and obtaining justice.

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“It is going to take a long time for us to digest what has happened on Sunday. I don’t think we will ever get over it. That’s not possible. And certainly not as a driver.”

Hamilton and Wolff are boycotting the official FIA World Championship prize-giving ceremony being held by the FIA in Paris on Thursday.

The constructors’ championship trophy will be accepted by chief technical officer James Allison.

Why are Hamilton and Wolff so upset?

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull overtook Hamilton’s Mercedes on the last lap of the race to clinch the drivers’ title after rules were not applied properly by race director Michael Masi during a safety-car period.

Wolff accused Masi of “a freestyle reading of the rules and it left Lewis like a sitting duck”, adding: “Robbing him in the last lap of the race is unacceptable.”

Wolff said he was “not interested in having a conversation with Michael Masi”.

He added: “It’s not only a decision to change the race director; the whole system of decision-making needs to be improved. The race director is certainly under big pressure and some of that is due to our own faults.”

Wolff said he “wished” there had been more “consistency” in decision-making throughout the 2021 F1 season so the sport could have “avoided many of the controversies throughout the year”.

He added the decisions around the safety car on Sunday “had the biggest impact and from a sporting perspective a catastrophic impact because it decided the World Championship”.

Wolff accepted that team principals should not be able to talk directly to the race director during a grand prix – both Wolff and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner radioed Masi to put their case for certain decisions to be taken.

Masi made the decisive – and controversial – calls to let only some lapped cars through past the leaders and on the timing of the removal of the safety car shortly after Horner said to him: “You only need one racing lap.”

Wolff emphasised that he had nothing against Verstappen or Red Bull.

“This situation is nothing to do with Max,” Wolff said. “He is a worthy champion, his driving is exceptional and Red Bull are a fierce competitor. And I have the greatest respect of the people working there. This has nothing to do with them.”

The Austrian added: “We cannot continue in a sport that is meant to be sport followed by entertainment and not the other way around.

“The consistency of the rules is important and no decision should happen contrary to the rules just to spice up the action.

“There need to be clear measures in place before the start of the season so every driver and team and the fans understand what is on and not on.”