Lewis Hamilton ‘had title taken away from him’, says new team-mate George Russell

George Russell was speaking about Lewis Hamilton at the launch of Mercedes’ 2022 car

Lewis Hamilton had an eighth world title “taken away from him” by the errors made by officials at the final race of last year, George Russell says.

Hamilton’s new Mercedes team-mate said at the launch of their new car that he “really feels for Lewis” because of the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“He had that race completely under control,” Russell said.

“He only had to bring it home and he’d have been an eight-time champion and he had that taken away from him.”

Hamilton was leading in Abu Dhabi and on course for a fourth consecutive win that would have secured the title until a late-race safety car.

Race director Michael Masi then restarted the race in a manner that did not comply with the rules in two different ways, and Hamilton was passed by rival Max Verstappen, whose victory clinched the title for the Red Bull driver.

Mercedes’ W13 took to the track at Silverstone on Friday

On Thursday, governing body the FIA ​​announced a series of changes to F1’s race control system following an inquiry into Abu Dhabi – including removing Masi as race director.

Russell, who is also a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said: “Mistakes happen when the heat of the moment is on and people’s emotions are high. Fingers crossed, with the changes the FIA ​​have made, that won’t happen again.

“In sport, there is always a huge amount of pressure on every individual, whether it be the athlete, the coach, the manager, the engineer, the referee or the race director.

“We’ve all come to the agreement that what happened in Abu Dhabi was incorrect and the changes have been made because of the outcome of Abu Dhabi.”

Hamilton said on Friday that there had been “a moment when I lost a little bit of faith in the system” but that he “refused to let (Abu Dhabi) define my career”.

Among the changes announced by the FIA ​​is for two new people to alternate as race director, and for them to be assisted by a more robust support structure, including a remote race control room similar to football’s video assistant referee.

“The FIA ​​were incredibly proactive straight after Abu Dhabi to find better solutions,” Russell said.

“I think the VAR solution is great and it makes total sense to have further assistance, people analyzing live and more input to get a quicker view and decision to be made.

“Times progress, things move on, the way drivers are exploiting the rule book is understandable and the FIA ​​need to do more to compensate that because every team and driver will always look for ways to get the upper hand.

“It will take some time to refine but it is definitely a step in the right direction. It is always going to need more and the more things we can do virtually can only be beneficial.”

Russell is going into his first season in a top team and he said he had no doubts Hamilton would be fully prepared for the new season despite his difficult winter.

“Lewis is a fighter and a racer and his absolute main priority is to be the best version of himself when he hits the track in Bahrain for race one,” Russell said.

“He knows what it takes to be world champion and what preparation he needs over the course of a pre-season to prepare himself best for that first race.

“It always amazes me how someone so talented and successful continues to strive for more. That is incredibly inspiring and motivational for me to try and reach the heights he has achieved.

“And what an opportunity for me to learn from him and see how he goes about his business. I think we’re going to have a really good relationship and we can really work together to push the team forwards.”

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