Sir Lewis Hamilton is “wise” to have distanced himself from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff following the highly controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as he doesn’t want to jeopardise his potential plans for a future in Hollywood.
That’s according to 1997 Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve, who said he believes that Wolff has “damaged his reputation” as a result of his conduct since the season finale in December.
Hamilton and Max Verstappen went into the curtain-closer in the UAE capital level on points, after an intense, topsy-turvy season of racing – filled with plenty of controversy between Mercedes, Red Bull and race control.
However, the most controversial incident came in Abu Dhabi, after race director Michael Masi made the unprecedented decision to only allow a limited number of cars to un-lap themselves while behind the Safety Car, ahead of the grand prix being restarted for the final lap.
Masi made this decision after being lobbied on the radio by both Mercedes and Red Bull, who realised that the championship result would hinge on whether race control opted to restart the race, and whether there would be any lapped runners between Hamilton and Verstappen.
Ultimately, with the Dutchman having a clear run at the Mercedes driver, Verstappen was able to overtake Hamilton on the very last lap of the 2021 season to seal his maiden F1 crown.
Ahead of the final lap, Wolff got on the radio to Masi to describe his decision as “so not right” and Mercedes protested the stewarding decisions after the race.
When this protest was rejected, Mercedes said they would be filing an appeal, but they later backpedalled on this.
Hamilton had been silent for a while since his championship defeat, though he recently announced a new school initiative.
Villeneuve has said he believes the Briton’s silence was his way of distancing himself from Wolff.
“I interpret his silence as a way of distancing himself from Wolff,” the outspoken Canadian said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“After all, you can lose in style, but instead Toto behaves like someone who loses a game of Monopoly and then flips the board.”
Continuing, he suggested that Hamilton is being especially careful about his own reputation and perception, especially as he has interests outside of Formula 1.
“In my view, he has damaged his reputation in doing so. Hamilton is wise in this, because he is thinking about his future,” Villeneuve said.
“Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood.”