Legendary rally champion claims Lewis Hamilton losing Formula 1 title was “theft”

Eight-time world rally champion Sebastien Ogier has had some strong words to say about the controversial closing laps of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship.

Lewis Hamilton led the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix when the safety car came out on lap 53. The Mercedes driver was ahead of title rival Max Verstappen. Hamilton would have been crowned champion if the results had stayed as they were.

Knowing that they had nothing to lose, Red Bull pitted Verstappen for a fresh set of tyres. Hamilton could not respond. Had he pitted a lap later, he would have lost track position to the Dutchman.

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The Mercedes on old tyres led the Red Bull on new tyres with two laps remaining. At this point, it was still unclear as to whether the race would resume.

What happened next?

However, race director Michael Masi signalled for some of the lapped cars to pass Hamilton and Verstappen, before restarting the race. The Brit was left helpless as his title rival overtook him with ease to win the race and his first Formula 1 championship.

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Mercedes immediately protested the decision. As per the sporting regulations, they argued that ‘any cars who have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car’. Not all lapped cars were given the go-ahead to overtake.

Another part of the sporting code states that  ‘once the last lapped car has passed the leader, the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap’. Once Masi had made the call to allow lapped cars through, the safety car pulled into the pits at the end of the current lap.

Mercedes eventually withdrew their protest, confirming Verstappen as champion. The result, however, is still controversial and is being talked about to this day.

Sebastien Ogier on Hamilton title loss

Lewis Hamilton was looking for his eighth Formula 1 world title in Abu Dhabi. However, he wasn’t able to secure it.

Sebastien Ogier has won eight world titles in the World Rally Championship. He is the second-most successful driver in the sport’s history, behind compatriot Sebastien Loeb.

Ogier had some strong words for the FIA about the Abu Dhabi controversy. However, he did reserve words of praise for eventual champion Verstappen.

“It must have been very hard to accept,” he told RMC Sport’s Super Moscato Show.

Ogier then claimed: “He was robbed. Let’s not be afraid to say that. Although I have a lot of respect for Max Verstappen, he had a great season but on the last weekend… Lewis dominates the race. He is in front until the end.

“And unfortunately for him, a few laps from the finish, there is this famous safety car. One or the other, [Hamilton or Verstappen] were beautiful champions, but on the face of that weekend, it’s theft. And it’s hard to swallow for Hamilton.”

Asked for his opinion about whether the Mercedes driver would return for 2022, he responded: “I think he will come back.”

Formula 1 fans will be hoping that the last statement does indeed turn out to be accurate, and Lewis Hamilton is lining up on the grid for the 2022 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in March.

Featured Image Credit: Getty