Lewis Hamilton has revealed his "worst fears came alive" when being 'cheated' out of an eighth world championship.
The Briton was on course to break the record for most F1 titles - currently shared with Michael Schumacher on seven - when a late safety car was deployed at last season's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale.
The decisions that were made by then-FIA race director Michael Masi created a fractious atmosphere the sport is still trying to repair, with Max Verstappen capitalising to clinch his maiden title on the very final lap of the campaign.
Mercedes driver Hamilton has opened up on the event in the September edition of Vanity Fair.
“You see things start to unfold and my worst fears came alive," said Hamilton.
"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.”
“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.”
On whether he felt cheated, Hamilton replied: “I knew what had happened. I knew what decisions had been made and why. Yes, I knew that something wasn’t right.”
Hamilton details "profound" father embrace
Hamilton was consoled after the race by father Anthony, before taking to the podium alongside his victorious rival.
But from that point onwards, Hamilton disappeared from the public eye until January, just weeks before this year's Mercedes challenger was unveiled.
Addressing the moment with his father, Hamilton explained: “He embraced me, and I think he was like, ‘I want you to know how proud I am of you'.
"Having your father embrace you in that way is one of the most profound things I’ve ever… especially as you’ve grown up not many times having that.”