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Hamilton admits to self-doubt and how Abu Dhabi 2021 did prompt retirement thoughts

Lewis Hamilton has opened up on the self-doubt he has faced amid Mercedes’ recent Formula 1 struggles and revealed how he pondered retirement after the Abu Dhabi 2021 controversy.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG,

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG,

Jake Grant / Motorsport Images

The seven-time champion has undergone a challenging two years with the Mercedes squad, which has found itself unable to regularly match the pace of the dominant Red Bull outfit. 

Those competitive struggles have also come straight off the back of the controversy from the end of 2021, where the FIA’s mishandling of a safety car restart at that year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ultimately cost Hamilton the world title.

Hamilton interview: How Mercedes lost and found its Northern Star in 2023

And while Hamilton has committed himself to helping Mercedes get back to the front of F1 with a new contract that keeps him committed until the end of 2025, he has confessed about there being times when he questioned his own performances. 

Speaking to selected media including Autosport about having moments of doubts amid recent difficulties, Hamilton said: “Of course. I’m only human. If anyone in the world tells you they don’t have those things they’re in denial. We’re all human beings.” 

Although Hamilton is currently experiencing his longest victory drought in F1, having not stood on top of the podium since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, he says that too much is made of statistics and views the current challenges with Mercedes as similar to the difficulties he has faced at earlier times in his career. 

Asked about the significance of being without a win for two years, he said: “I think that’s a misconception. When I was younger, I had bad years when I was a kid.  

“In 2009, the car was horrendous. We did have a win through the year because we had a second upgrade in the season.  

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-24

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-24

“Then 2010-11, also not great years. One on my side from a personal [point of view] the other more often than not the car was not spectacular.  

“So, it’s maybe the biggest drought in terms of success, but if you take away those wins, it’s been similar to those seasons.  

“I think I’ve learned a lot about my mind state and how to keep it in a solid place and staying positive, adding new tools into my armoury so I can continue to do what I do.  

“I’m 38, nearly 39 years old, and I feel great in my body. That’s due to certain tools I’ve been able to accumulate during these two years. Time that I’ve been able to manage outside racing, I think I’ve been able to do a much better job of maintaining energy and focus. 

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“I’ve got a better team around me than ever before. I guess ultimately when you have difficult seasons like this, there are always going to be moments when you’re like, ‘Is it me or is it the car?’ Do you still have it? Has it gone?  

“Because you’re missing that [moment] when the magic happens. When everything comes together, the car and you, and you get that spark, it’s extraordinary, and that’s what you’re in the search for.” 

Abu Dhabi fallout 

In the wake of the controversial finish to the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton completely disappeared from the public spotlight. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

And while he said at the time that he was always determined to come back, he has admitted now that there were moments he pondered walking away. 

“For sure, yeah,” he said, when asked if an instant retirement entered his thoughts. 

“There was so much going through my mind during that period in time. But I think one of the worst things you can do is make decisions based on emotions, because when you are emotional and in the heat of that moment, more often than not, you’re not going to make the best decisions.  

“Emotions were high, it was a really, really difficult period of time, so I had to just wait until things calmed down, and that I was clear in my thought and I was able to then make the right decisions.” 

Hamilton said he disappeared away from Europe to spend time with his close family as he gathered his thoughts. 

“I was around my niece and nephew and was in a beautiful place, in Hawaii, with my family, and at a point where I felt really content and felt I just wanted to get up again and keep going,” he said.

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