Lewis Hamilton shows his class after bitter blow of F1 title defeat in Abu Dhabi GP

British driver loses crown to Verstappen as lawyers enter fray following controversial finale at Yas Marina Circuit

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Lewis Hamilton may have not won a race or a championship but he earned a legion of new fans in Abu Dhabi.

The seven time champion was regal as the Formula One competition crumbled around him. His boss Toto Wolff screamed on the radio at race director Michael Masi.

And long after the cars had fallen silent and darkness had enveloped Yas Island, Mercedes were ensconced with their legal representatives.

Mercedes in fact had lodged two official protests: that Max Verstappen had overtaken under safety car conditions and the race had been re-started incorrectly.

In fact, they had triggered exactly what they had said, in the weeks building up to the event, they wanted to avoid.

A championship that has ended up being fought not on the track but in front of the stewards with lawyers listening in.

And all this after collaring at least some glory with their record eighth successive constructor’s world championship.

They needed just 17 points and with 18 for Hamilton’s second place they had that.

But clearly one world championship wasn’t enough for them after they had won both for the last seven years.

It also emerged that such is the state of modern sport that both of the title contending teams had their own high powered legal representatives present for the race weekend.

Hamilton, though, deprived of a record eighth championship to beat Michael Schumacher’s record of seven was positively regal.

He hugged with his dad, Anthony, there were a few quiet words and then the duo walked over and shook hands with Max Verstappen and his dad, Jos, an ex-F1 racer himself.

“Firstly, a big congratulations to Max and to his team,” said Hamilton. “I think we did an amazing job this year, with my team. Everyone back to the factory, all the men and women we have here have worked so hard this whole year.

“It's been the most difficult of seasons and I'm so proud of them, so grateful to be a part of the journey with them.

“We gave it everything this last part of the year. We gave it absolutely everything and we never gave up. And that's the most important thing.”

“If I'm honest, you know, we're still in the pandemic and I just really wish everyone to stay safe and have a good Christmas with all their families and then we'll see about next year.”

Having won world titles in 2008, 2014, '15, 17, '18, '19 and 2020 he was not able to add 2021 — but only by the finest of margins.

In fact, he was leading for most of the day and still in the contest until six corners from the finish.

But there were clearly those who thought it was the FIA and not Mercedes who should be in the dock.

Damon Hill, 1996 champion, tweeted: “A lot of not very happy people. And a lot of very happy people. This is a new way of running the sport where the race director can make these ad hoc decisions. Its been a bit too 'guess what I'm going to do now' I think.”

And ex-F1 racer Jolyon Palmer said: “It looks like the FIA may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Should they have got the race restarted or not? Should they have tried to get the race restarted or the lapped cars through a little bit earlier?

“In my opinion yes. But they didn't and that's where it looked like they panicked and went too late with it. And that's why Mercedes are now up in arms”

Updated: December 13, 2021, 5:59 AM