This weekend sees Hamilton return to the scene of his controversial F1 title defeat at the hands of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth world title and Verstappen snatched his maiden drivers’ crown after then race-director Michael Masi botched the handling of a late Safety Car period. 


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The seven-time world champion insisted ahead of the weekend that he won’t be thinking about the events of last season’s contentious finale. 

Hamilton made a strong start on Friday by leading teammate George Russell in a Mercedes 1-2 during opening practice at the Yas Marina Circuit, though he finished fourth and half a second behind Verstappen in FP2. 

“I think it looks a bit closer,” Hamilton replied when asked if he thinks Mercedes can carry over their race-winning form from Brazil last weekend. 

“I think the Red Bulls look quicker here, which was expected. We didn’t expect this to be our strongest race. But we’ll work hard overnight. We’re generally right there, so hopefully we can put up a good fight.”

However, Hamilton conceded that his race run “wasn’t very good, but I don’t know where it stands compared to the others.”  

Red Bull ‘have the legs’ on Mercedes 

Russell echoed Hamilton’s thoughts after ending the day second-fastest, 0.341s adrift of Verstappen. 

The Briton admitted Red Bull “had the legs” on Mercedes in the final session when conditions were more representative of qualifying and the race. 

“It felt fast out there but I think Red Bull just have the legs on us,” said Russell. “Single lap, probably two-tenths ahead. Long runs, maybe even further. 

“We’ve got a little bit of work to do overnight, but compared to Ferrari it looked reasonable.” 

Russell believes the layout of the Abu Dhabi track suits Red Bull’s 2022 challenger “down to a tee”. 

“Race-run, as I said, a little bit behind Red Bull,” he added. 

“We know they have a very slippery car, very efficient on the straights and on a circuit like this, with two long straights and lots of slow speed corners, this suits them down to a tee. 

“Pleased we’re much closer than we were at, let’s say, Spa, where it’s not too dissimilar.”

But Russell is remaining positive that Mercedes can end a troubled campaign on a high note. 

“I think we’ll be fighting for it,” he said. “I’d like to think we’ll be fighting for the top three in qualifying and who knows where that can take us on Sunday.”