Lewis Hamilton flouted F1’s so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ during qualifying ahead of Sunday’s final Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi when he jumped the line by passing champion Max Verstappen. The Mercedes ace has suffered a miserable season this term amid problems with his car and was fifth in the Drivers’ Championship standings before the race in the Middle East.
Drivers are often reluctant to jump the queue in qualifying because of the token deal. But Hamilton had no intention of waiting for the slower drivers in front of him towards the end of Q1 when the track became overcrowded.
At the final corner, as the slow-moving cars were gapping before their fastest laps, Hamilton and Verstappen commented on the amount of traffic around them. But, while the Red Bull star decided to stick to the unwritten agreement, Hamilton stepped on the gas to push on and start his fastest lap.
“Unbelievable,” Verstappen snapped, before laughing in disbelief. But his engineer tried to calm him down on the radio when he told the 25-year-old: “Let them go. Let them play. He let it go. Let him play.
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The Briton looked set to win an unprecedented eighth title last season after leading Verstappen at the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December. But after a late Safety Car break, the Dutchman was allowed to catch up with his nemesis for a one-lap shootout when the race restarted and he crossed the line in first position.
After a winter of F1 regulation changes ahead of the 2022 season, Mercedes has struggled to find a winning formula this term, with Hamilton and teammate George Russell struggling at many races. And the 37-year-old hasn’t been able to win a race all year, although he has scored nine podium finishes.
Verstappen, meanwhile, has been in imperious form once again this year and secured his second consecutive title by winning the Japanese Grand Prix in early October with four races to go.
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