Lewis Hamilton could still retire ahead of the upcoming 2022 Formula 1 season amid an FIA probe into the controversial finale in Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull star Max Verstappen secured a maiden world title in dramatic and controversial circumstances at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after he and title rival Hamilton went into the season finale at the Yas Marina Circuit tied on points.
The Dutchman passed the seven-time world champion – who had dominated for much of the race – on the final lap of the season as a late Safety Car and tyre change swung momentum in his favour.
Mercedes’ fury was largely aimed at FIA race director Michael Masi after he decided against allowing cars to unlap themselves, as is tradition, only to change his mind to set up the final lap showdown between Hamilton and Verstappen.
Mercedes withdrew their appeal against the result after the FIA pledged an investigation into the events surrounding the Safety Car procedures.
With the 2022 season on the horizon – the first season in the new era of regulations – Brit superstar Hamilton may not be on the grid.
Hamilton and Mercedes team members did not conduct any other media interviews after the season finale. The 37-year-old is yet to post on his social media accounts since the events of December 12 2021.
“With 69 days to go until the first Grand Prix in Bahrain, it is still unclear whether Lewis Hamilton will be on the grid,” Sky Sports News' Craig Slater reported.
“In terms of Hamilton coming back to Formula 1, having the appetite to do so and getting over the 'disillusionment' that his team boss Toto Wolff said he felt after Abu Dhabi, the onus is on the FIA to deliver on the pledge they made before Christmas to investigate the happenings on that final lap and to come up with some findings.
“It is understood that Mercedes want to see something tangible. It's been put to me like this: the longer this drags on then the worse the Lewis Hamilton situation is, and that is from a senior source.”
After his heart-wrenching defeat in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton referred to next season in mystic fashion during his interview with Jenson Button: “We gave It everything and never gave up and that’s the most important thing. We’ll see about next year.”
Just days after his defeat by Verstappen, Hamilton was awarded his knighthood at Windsor Castle. He also attended Mercedes’ celebrations at their headquarters following their record-extending eighth successive constructors’ title.
New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, who succeeded Jean Todt in December, dismissed suggestions Hamilton would retire ahead of next season.
“No, I don't think he will [quit],” Ben Sulayem told reporters. “I’ll ask your question, did Lewis declare that he's not going to race? No. Exactly. Being a driver, you declare yourself, you don't let the rumours [talk].
“I’m confident that Lewis [will return]. Lewis is a big part of motorsport, and of course of Formula 1, the new era [can add to] Lewis's wins and achievements, and also Verstappen is there.
“I am very confident that you will see a very challenging Formula 1 season next year.”
The 60-year-old also outlined aims to look into F1's regulations in order to avoid a repeat to the conclusion in Abu Dhabi.
The 23-race 2022 campaign begins on March 18-20, with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars underway from February 23.
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