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Hamilton felt Abu Dhabi GP was "manipulated" in unplayed radio message

Lewis Hamilton claimed that the dramatic conclusion to Formula 1's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix had "been manipulated" in an unplayed radio message to his Mercedes team during the final lap.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Hamilton appeared set to clinch his eighth world championship when Nicholas Latifi's crashed Williams required a safety car that allowed title rival Max Verstappen to pit for fresh soft tyres.

Mercedes left Hamilton out on his old hard tyres, but when lapped cars between the two were allowed to pass the safety car, the race was restarted for a one-lap shootout.

Verstappen duly passed Hamilton, who four corners from the chequered flag shouted: "This has been manipulated, man."

The comment was not broadcast on the world feed, but was heard on Hamilton's onboard channel on F1 TV.

Mercedes subsequently protested the restart, on the grounds that it contravened Article 48.12 of the sporting regulations, which states "once the last lapped car has passed the leader the safety car will return to the pits at the end of the following lap."

Its protest was rejected, upholding Verstappen as champion, although Mercedes plans to appeal the verdict.

During the safety car period, Hamilton's radio chatter was focused mainly on his frustrations with the apparent slow pace of the safety car.

PLUS: How Perez's Hamilton defiance was vital to Verstappen's Abu Dhabi triumph

On the penultimate lap he was informed by engineer Peter Bonnington that race director Michael Masi was letting the lapped cars between the leader and second-placed Verstappen go past him.

The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

As the resumption of what had become a one-lap race to the flag approached, Bonnington then said, "Safety car in this lap, just prepare your tyres, you'll have overtake for each of the straights, one lap to run."

After the green flag flew and Verstappen made his successful pass there was no further comment from Hamilton or the pit wall until he made his manipulated claim just before the end of the final lap.

Immediately after crossing the line, Bonnington said: "I'm just speechless Lewis, absolutely speechless."

Hamilton made no reply on the slowing down lap, and nothing more was said until Bonnington reminded him - too late - that he was supposed to park on the grid.

After stopping in parc ferme, Hamilton sat in the car for two full minutes gathering his thoughts before alighting. 

After speaking briefly to TV interviewer Jenson Button, congratulating Verstappen on his victory, Hamilton then skipped the official FIA press conference and TV interview pen.

His team boss Toto Wolff declined to speak to the media even after the final decisions on the Mercedes protests were issued late in the evening, telling Autosport "I don't want to say anything" as he left the paddock.

Mercedes key players James Vowles and Andrew Shovlin also didn't undertake the media commitments that they usually do.

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner shakes hands with second placed Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner shakes hands with second placed Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes

Photo by: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The apparent lockdown at Mercedes seems likely to continue at least while the team considers its options, having notified the FIA of its intention to appeal against the rejection of its protest regarding the restart procedure. 

The team has 96 hours in which to decide what to do.

As runner-up Hamilton is due to appear and speak to the media at Thursday's FIA prizegiving gala in Paris, while Wolff will represent constructors' champions Mercedes.

Several drivers spoke after the race of their confusion over the "weird" and "made for TV" unlapping procedure, while Hamilton's 2022 race team-mate George Russell called the race finish "unacceptable".

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