Hamilton: Red Bull's budget cap saga rushed back memories of Abu Dhabi

Lewis Hamilton admits Red Bull’s budget cap breach has triggered ‘spirit-breaking’ memories of his controversial title defeat by Max Verstappen on final lap last season

  • Red Bull’s cap breach has brought back grim memories for Lewis Hamilton
  • The Mercedes star was denied an eighth world title in Abu Dhabi last December
  • Max Verstappen overtook him at the end after a controversial safety car incident
  • Hamilton admitted the manner of defeat was ‘spirit-breaking and soul-crushing’ 

Lewis Hamilton thought he had laid to rest the ghost of dramatically losing the Formula One title in Abu Dhabi last December. 

But the Mercedes driver has admitted the grim memories came flooding back once he learned of Red Bull’s budget cap breach from last season. 

The seven-time world champion was on course to claim his eighth title in Abu Dhabi last year until raced director Michael Masi controversially applied safety car rules, ultimately favouring Max Verstappen who overtook Hamilton in the final laps. 

Looking back at the contentious incident, the Brit described losing the title in that fashion as ‘definitely spirit-breaking’ and ‘soul-crushing’. 

Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull’s budget cap breach has flooded back memories of Abu Dhabi

He also admitted, upon learning that Red Bull had exceeded last season’s brand-new spending limit, that the unfortunate memories had resurfaced in his mind.

During a group interview with BBC Sport at the United States Grand Prix, Hamilton said: ‘That (the budget breach), for sure, brings up a little bit of emotion.

‘Because you kind of buried it and moved on and then it comes back up and it’s like another bit of a kick. 

‘And, yeah, that just bought it all kind of fresh again. So then [it was a case of] just getting back into the phase of just suppressing it and moving forwards.’

As a result of the drama in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton took some time away from the spotlight ahead of the 2022 season, prompting many to question whether he would return to the cockpit this year.

Red Bull overspent their budget last year as Max Verstappen claimed his first ever world title

The Mercedes star insisted it was not in his nature to retire just yet and added: ‘Was I ever truly not going to come back? I am not one to give up like that, really.

‘What really was breaking was to just believe that the sport would do something like that, that that would happen, given that there are so many people you rely on. You expect that the job would be done right.

‘And [that] an outcome of a world championship which so many people have worked so hard for would come out through a wrong decision from somebody, you know?

‘That was probably the only thing. It wasn’t for my lack of love for working with my team or racing cars; it was literally that.

The Dutchman overtook Hamilton in the final laps due to a controversial safety car incident


‘If you can lose a championship through wrongdoing within an organisation, that was the thing that I wondered whether…

‘But I spent time with my family and that was really the best part of the healing, really. I just gave all of my time to the kids [his nephews and nieces], building snowmen and just being present with them. That enabled me to really recover, really bounce back. If I wasn’t with them, I would have been stuck in a hole.’

Verstappen’s journey to the 2022 world title was settled at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month.

Verstappen won the 2022 world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix earlier this month

Meanwhile, Hamilton sits sixth in the standings behind Red Bull’s Verstappen and Sergio Perez, both Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz and Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

Mercedes have endured a significant drop-off in pace in comparison to last season, with neither Russell nor Hamilton claiming a race win this year.

The 37-year-old’s closest shot at a race win came in Austin last weekend, but Verstappen overtook him in the closing stages to claim the victory.

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