Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard
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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has opened up on private talks with Lewis Hamilton, revealing what he told the Brit before he was awarded a knighthood. The 36-year-old was just one lap away from scooping another F1 title. Yet he was beaten to the prize by Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances in Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton went into the deciding race in Abu Dhabi earlier this month knowing victory would see him retain his crown.
However, despite leading for the majority of the showdown, the Brit lost out following an incident involving the safety car.
It was Verstappen who instead reigned supreme, with the Red Bull racer securing glory for the first time in his career.
Mercedes launched two appeals immediately after the result in the Middle East, with both dismissed by the FIA.
They then pondered taking their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but, in the end, decided to let the incident go.
Hamilton, according to Wolff, was present for ‘days of talks’.
He was given a knighthood by the Queen despite the result, recognising the work he’s done in F1 and the wider world.
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And Wolff has now opened up on what unfolded behind the scenes at Mercedes, while also claiming Hamilton deserved the accolade.
“Lewis was in the office with me and everyone else involved, and we were also in constant contact over those days,” he told Motorsport-total.com.
“In the afternoon [of the third day], we were back in video calls to decide what to do.
“What I told him before [receiving the knighthood] was that he should take those few hours paying homage to his life’s work so far and his performances, that he should try to take those positive moments with him.
“I think that’s what he did. You could see that too, how honourable that was for him.”
Hamilton has been silent since the race, leading to some suggestions the Brit could be about to call time on his career.
Bernie Ecclestone is one of those who thinks the Brit may not be seen on the grid again, saying recently: “I don’t know [what is happening with Lewis Hamilton], but I don’t think he’s coming back.
“His disappointment is too big. And you can somehow understand it.
“Now it would be time to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur with seven World Cup titles like Michael Schumacher.”
Yet Wolff has insisted Hamilton is silent because he can’t put his agony over missing out on the title into words.
“We are all wavering in emotions and Lewis most of all,” said the Austrian.
“He won the World Championship until the last lap, and then everything is taken away from you from one second [to the next]. Of course you lose faith because you can’t understand what has just happened.
“The silence is there, of course, because he simply lacks words as well.”
The last man to beat Hamilton to F1 title glory was Nico Rosberg, back in 2016.
The German had a fierce rivalry with his British rival, despite the pair both being team-mates at Mercedes.
Rosberg was recently quizzed on Hamilton and implored the Silver Arrows driver to take the fight to Verstappen next year.
“It was heartbreaking for him, absolutely, because up until four laps from the end he was almost certain to be world champion,” he said.
“Then with this change of procedure or whatever you want to call it, suddenly he lost the world championship.
“It was tough, it was extremely tough.
“But of course I do count on him being back on the grid next year and fighting to get back that world championship that kind of got taken away from him in a way.”
Rosberg also hopes that Hamilton and Verstappen serve up another classic next year, having been neck and neck throughout the entirety of last season.
“I do hope that Lewis and Max will go at it again next year,” Rosberg continued.
“Of course I’m not the guy to be saying that because I also disappeared into the distance after I won a title, so it really wouldn’t be fair to say that!
“It was just so amazing, those two guys.
“Lewis used to be – or is – the best wheel-to-wheel racer, and here comes Verstappen who is really taking it to him in wheel-to-wheel racing and sometimes even being better.
“It’s incredible to see their skill and to watch them go at it.
“They’re like on their own planet, they are well beyond everybody else, so I do hope we see it again next year.
“There are completely new regulations next year so there could be another team in the mix as well. So I think we’re in for another great season next year.”
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