Sir Lewis Hamilton has admitted he lost “faith” in the FIA following his controversial championship defeat to Max Verstappen last year, but has backed himself to come back stronger in 2022.
Hamilton was on course to secure his record eighth world championship at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix before a late Safety Car was deployed following a crash for Williams’ Nicholas Latifi.
Race director Michael Masi initially ruled that, with time constraints threatening to see the race end under a caution, no lapped cars would be permitted to get their lap back, and the five between the Briton and title rival Max Verstappen would be staying put.
However, following a brake fire that, as suggested by Karun Chandhok, elongated the Safety Car period, we were left with just one lap of green flag racing, and the Australian made the contentious call to allow only the five between the leaders traverse the Safety Car.
Verstappen would then pass the 37-year-old on the final lap of the race to clinch his maiden F1 championship.
Masi has since been removed by the FIA as race director, but before that Hamilton took a lengthy break from the public eye to lick his wounds.
His team principal Toto Wolff also admitted that they had both become “disillusioned” with the pinnacle of motorsport, and this led to suggestions that the seven-time world champion was going to retire, but he has since returned and was present at Mercedes’ presentation of their 2022 car on Friday.
He won three of the last four races of 2021, and a fourth along with his eighth championship beckoned until the very last and very controversial lap at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The 37-year-old issued a statement of intent at a media session, indicating that he is raring to go for the new campaign.
“If you think that what you saw at the end of last year was my best, wait until you see this year,” he told media after the Silver Arrows’ car launch.
“Of course at the end of seasons you think and the question is whether you’re willing to commit the time the effort that it takes to be a world champion.”
Former Formula 1 driver Perry McCarthy told Formula1News.co.uk a few weeks back of the mental and physical toll it takes out of drivers to compete for a world championship, and queried as to whether Hamilton would have the energy to return.
The Briton himself emphasised the sheer struggle a driver has to go through to achieve the ultimate goal in motorsport.
“I think a lot of people underestimate what it takes to be a World Champion,” he affirmed.
“And there are so many moving parts. It’s not just turning up and driving the car.
“So yeah, the question is, do you want to sacrifice the time? Do you believe that you can continue to punch at the weight that you’re punching?”
The Mercedes driver detailed his dejection at how the championship was decided last year, and concedes that he lost a bit of trust in the FIA.
“And so that’s a normal kind of mental process for me. But of course this one was compounded by a significant factor,” he stated.
“Ultimately in a sport that I’ve loved my whole life, there was a moment where I kind of obviously lost a little bit of faith within the system.
“Trust can be lost in the blink of an eye. To earn trust is built over a long, long period of time.”
However, he appears ready to put last year behind him and come back swinging this year in his bid to become the undisputed most successful driver of all time.
“But I’m generally a very determined person and I like to think to myself whilst moments like this might define careers, I refuse to let this define mine,” he maintained.
“And so I’m focused on being the best I can be and coming back stronger.”
Hamilton will partner George Russell at Mercedes this season after the 24-year-old was brought up from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas, who has headed to Alfa Romeo.
Both Britons participated in a wet shakedown at Silverstone after the car launch, and will head to Barcelona on Tuesday to partake in the first pre-season test.