Lewis Hamilton has opened up on his emotions following the controversial end to the 2021 Formula One season, admitting his "worst fears came alive" in Abu Dhabi.
The Mercedes driver was at the tail-end of a fierce battle with Red Bull's Max Verstappen for the championship in last year's finale, knowing a record eighth world title would be clinched if he finished ahead of his rival.
On lap 53, Hamilton led but drama would soon erupt as Williams' Nicholas Latifi crashed into the barrier at the exit of turn 14 and the safety car was deployed.
Under FIA guidelines, lapped cars are allowed to overtake behind the safety car but that guidance was not followed by race director Michael Masi, who instead only allowed the cars between Verstappen and Hamilton to move through.
Verstappen, having pitted, then completed an overtake of a defenceless Hamilton at the restart to clinch his maiden title.
The controversy that followed rumbled on for months, with Masi departing his role prior to the start of the 2022 season, and Hamilton has now spoken about his feelings regarding the incident.
"You see things start to unfold and my worst fears came alive," he told Vanity Fair.
"I was like, there's no way they're going to cheat me out of this. There's no way. That won't happen. Surely not.
Team work makes the dream work pic.twitter.com/zchs9KlFiV— Team LH (@Team_LH) July 31, 2022
"I don't know if I can really put into words the feeling that I had. I do remember just sitting there just in disbelief.
"And realizing I've got to undo my belts, I've got to get out of there, I've got to climb out of this thing, I've got to find the strength. I had no strength. And it was one of the toughest moments, I would say, that I've had in a long, long time.
"I knew what had happened. I knew what decisions had been made and why. Yes, I knew that something wasn't right."
Ahead of the 2022 season, questions were raised whether Hamilton would return to the grid, and he admits that he considered retirement.
"I, for sure, considered whether I wanted to continue," he confirmed.
Hamilton did return, racing alongside new teammate George Russell, but has not been able to compete for the crown, instead encountering numerous issues with Mercedes unable to compete with Red Bull and Ferrari at the start of the season.
Better fortune was found ahead of F1's summer break, with back-to-back podium finishes for both drivers, but Hamilton remains 112 points adrift of Verstappen in the standings.