McLaren chief executive Zak Brown says nobody ‘should take for granted’ that Lewis Hamilton will return to the Formula 1 grid for the 2022 season.
Hamilton has not spoken publicly since the aftermath of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, in which a controversially-handled late safety car period caused by a spin from William’s Nicholas Latifi cost him the championship.
FIA Race Director Michael Masi allowed only the cars separating first-placed Hamilton from title rival Max Verstappen to un-lap themselves behind the safety car before one final lap of racing, an unprecedented interpretation of the rules that left Hamilton a sitting duck.
The 37-year-old had led the vast majority of the race since passing Verstappen into Turn 1 off the start and had built up a seemingly unassailable lead, but could not defend against Verstappen on the final lap after the Dutchman was able to pit for fresh soft rubber.
Mercedes protested the result in the aftermath but Verstappen was ultimately declared champion, and team boss Toto Wolff told press the following week that could not guarantee the ‘disillusioned’ Hamilton would return to the sport.
Now Brown, who has led Hamilton’s former team since 2018, says it would not be too surprising if the Briton called it quits.
‘I wouldn’t be shocked if Lewis stopped and I don’t think anyone should take for granted that he is coming back,’ he wrote in an article detailing his thoughts on the state of the sport before the new season gets underway in March. ‘We should not discount or not recognise his frustration and anger and maybe he hasn’t taken a decision yet, and maybe what he is doing is taking time to make that decision. I don’t think we should rule retirement out or make light of it.’
‘I personally think Lewis still has a burning desire to race, that will ultimately drive his decision, and I think he will be back,’ Brown continued. ‘Sure, he is very angry, but I think race-car drivers want to race and he is at the top of his game. He is a fighter and he will want to come back and try and win an eighth world championship. Once you hang it up, you hang it up and I don’t think he is ready to do that and let an incident put him into retirement.’
Mercedes will unveil their 2022 car, which will be heavily revamped as Formula 1 implements a regulation change designed to make competition closer and allow for more frequent wheel-to-wheel racing, on 18 February.
Pre-season testing begins in Barcelona five days later and Hamilton is currently expected to participate, but is reportedly awaiting outcomes of the FIA investigation into the Abu Dhabi debacle before committing his future to F1, prior to which the FIA admitted that the sport’s image had been ‘tarnished.’
The seven-time world champion has been training at his house in Colorado since the finale in the UAE, and has taken a break from his usually active social media accounts.
Mercedes believe Lewis Hamilton will return to Formula 1 in 2022
Nicholas Latifi breaks silence on his role in controversial end to Abu Dhabi GP
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